George Udny Yule

George Yule

George Udny Yule was born 18 February, 1871 to a Scottish family. His father, Sir George Udny Yule, was a member of the Bengal Civil Service and was knighted for his work in India while his mother was a daughter of a Captain of the Indian Army. Yule grew up and received his education in London since the age of four, when his family left Scotland and moved there. At the age of sixteen, Yule entered University College, London, studying Engineering. Since at that time there was no engineering degree, his studies at University College did not bring him a degree. Yet it was at University College he met Karl Pearson, then a Professor of Applied Mathematics, who later led Yule into Statistics. Yule spent a couple years as a pupil in engineering works before he decided that he did not want to be an engineer in 1892. A year later, he returned to University College, London when Karl Pearson offered him a position as demonstrator.

Yule was soon drawn into statistics as Pearson began working in the field. He was subsequently promoted to the position of Assistant Professor in Applied Mathematics, and after an intermission in civil service, to the Newmarch Lecturer in Statistics in 1912. His lectures during these years provided the foundation of his book, An Introduction to the Theory of Statistics. In 1912, Yule was offered a position at Cambridge University which he accepted and enjoyed. He remained at Cambridge for the rest of his life. During the First World War, he became a statistician to the Director of Army Contacts, and later joined the Ministry of Food upon its formation. His work there earned him a C.B.E.

Yule's papers in statistics are mostly on correlation, association, (linear) regression and time-series analysis. He stressed, at the height of Pearson's influence, that correlation does not imply causation. He investigated spurious correlation and showed that irrelevant variables may be correlated under certain circumstances. The Yule-Walker equation on autoregressive coefficients on time-series analysis is still commonly used by economists. His work in statistics was also duly recognized by his fellows. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society in 1895, an Honourary Secretary of the Society from 1907 to 1919, and the President from 1924 to 1926. He was awarded the Guy Medal in gold, the highest honour of the Royal Statistical Society. He was also an honourary member of many other statistical societies.