Home > Mathematician of the Week Archive Detail

<< Prev 4/25/2010 Next >>

At age 14, I dropped out of high school and left home, in order to become a professional magician and travel with sleight-of-hand legend Dai Vernon.

Yet, my constant "side" goal was to return to high school so I could learn all of the mathematics needed to read and understand William Feller's multi-volume treatise on probability theory.

I did return and eventually got a Ph.D. in Mathematical Statistics from Harvard University in 1974.

Now a mathematical probabilist at Stanford University, I was awarded both the Rollo Davidson Prize and a MacArthur Fellowship in 1982.

I am known for tackling mathematical problems that involve random processes, such as coin flipping and shuffling playing cards.

For example, I proved rigorously that one must riffle shuffle a deck of playing cards seven times before the deck can be considered "randomized."

My other interests are designing backgrounds for flight simulators, writing a kid's book on magic and math, investigating the psychology of vision...plus exploring mathematical topics in decision theory, analytical combinatorics, Bayesian statistics, and group theory in statistics.

Answer: Persi Diaconis (1945 - )