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William Feller: Selected Papers I

William Feller
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
[Reviewed by
Charles Ashbacher
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When looking through these two volumes of Selected Papers, my mind wandered to the definition of “prolific.” How much do you need to write before you are given the title of “prolific author?” However, you define it, William Feller went far above that particular bar. These two books are a combined 1605 pages, yet contain only a selection of his work.

Feller was one of the giants in the development of the modern ideas of probability models and analysis. He was creatively active his entire life, a counterexample to the myth that mathematicians have exhausted their creative energies by the age of 50. Feller is also another example of the incredible value that can be derived from immigration. He was one of the first very talented people to leave Germany due to the rise of the Nazis, eventually settling in the eastern United States.

Some of the papers in this collection are in their original language, mostly German, but they are a demonstration of the development of some of the most powerful analytical techniques now available. As big data gets even bigger and more people try to glean those valuable nuggets of insight from it, the probability and statistical techniques pioneered by Feller are getting applied in different ways. These papers are an insight into the development of those techniques. 

Charles Ashbacher splits his time between consulting with industry in projects involving math and computers, and teaching college classes. In his spare time, he reads about these things and helps his daughter in her lawn care business.