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Moran, Patrick Alfred Pierce (Pat) (1917–1988)

by C. C. Heyde

Professor Patrick Moran, who had been Head of the Department of Statistics from 1952 to 1982, passed away in Canberra on 19 September.

During his thirty years at ANU, Pat Moran played a unique role in the training of several generations of Australian statisticians and in particular, nine out of the current fifteen professors of statistics in Australia have been associated with his department, either as students or staff. He also did much to stimulate research activity in statistics, and the high international recognition which Australia has achieved in the discipline owes much to his efforts.

Pat Moran was born in Sydney on 14 July 1917. He was educated at St Stanislaus College, Bathurst, and at the Universities of Sydney and Cambridge. He held positions as Experimental Officer, Ministry of Supply, 1940-42; Australian Scientific Liaison Officer, London, 1942-45; Baylis Student, University of Cambridge, 1945-46; Senior Research Officer, Institute of Statistics, Oxford University, 1949-51 and University Lecturer 1951; Professor of Statistics, Institute of Advanced Studies, ANU, 1952-82. After his retirement he stayed on at ANU as Visiting Fellow in the NH&MRC Social Psychiatry Research Unit.

Moran was honoured for the excellence of his research by election to the Australian Academy of Science in 1962 and the Royal Society in 1975. He was awarded the Lyle Medal of the Australian Academy of Science in 1963 and the Pitman Medal of the Statistical Society of Australia in 1982. He became an Honorary Life Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society in 1970 and an Honorary Life Member of the Statistical Society of Australia in 1978.

Moran served Australian science in many ways, including periods as President of the Statistical Society of Australia (1963-64) and the Australian Mathematical Society (1976-78). He was also Vice-President of the International Statistical Institute (1975-77).

His list of publications, more than 170 in number, spans the period from 1943 to 1986 and includes the influential books The Theory of Storage, Methuen (1960), The Random Processes of Evolutionary Theory, Oxford (1962), Geometrical Probability (with M.G. Kendall), Griffin (1962) and Introduction to Probability Theory, Oxford (1968). His work penetrated many areas of science and was never constrained by man-made boundaries or disciplines.

At the Requiem Mass in his honour, his friend and colleague Dr Scott Henderson spoke of 'how selfless he was in the way he walked through life. He gave so much to others. And he did so informally, even lightly or casually, so that the recipient might not realise it at first'. At a personal level he is well remembered for his contemplative wisdom, pipe in hand, and for his virtuosity with penetrating one-line phrases.

Original publication

Citation details

C. C. Heyde, 'Moran, Patrick Alfred Pierce (Pat) (1917–1988)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 11 August 2020.

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