Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis

Indian scientist and statistician

Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis (Bengali: প্রশান্ত চন্দ্র মহলানবিস) (June 29, 1893June 28, 1972) was a renowned Indian scientist and applied statistician. He was popularly address as P.C.Mahalanobis. He is best remembered for the Mahalanobis distance, a statistical measure. He made pioneering studies in anthropometry in India. He founded the Indian Statistical Institute, and contributed to the design of large-scale sample surveys for which he designed the method known as fractile graphical analysis. He was honoured with the Padma Vibhushan, the second highest civilian honour of the Government of India for his contribution to science and services to the country. He is regarded as the "Father of Statistical Science in India". Born and primarily educated at his native village in Munshiganj.

Mahalanobis statue in ISI Delhi
Mahalanobis signed post card


  • In India, there's lack of appreciation of the need to cross-examine data, the responsibility of a statistician.
  • The spirit and outlook of 'Sankhya' will be universal, but its form and content must necessarily be, to some extent, regional. We shall keep the special needs of India in view without, however, restricting the scope of the journal in any way. We shall naturally devote closer attention to the collection and analysis of data relating to India, but we shall try to study all Indian questions in relation to world problems.... The study of modern statistical methods in its infancy in our country, and we do not expect to be able to achieve immediate results. We shall be satisfied if we can help by our humble efforts to lay the foundations for future work.
    • His editorial in his Journal the Sankhya cited in Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis. School of Mathematics and Statistics University of St Andrews, Scotland. Retrieved on 14 December 2013.

Professor P.C. Mahalanobis and the Development of Population Statistics in lndiaEdit

Professor P.C. Mahalanobis and the Development of Population Statistics in lndia. Library Indian Statistical Institute. Retrieved on 14 December 2013.

  • Because demography is concerned with human affairs and human populatlons it is possible, in principle, to consider demography as a sub-field of many other subjects. It provided the scope of any particular subject-field like anthropology, genetics, ecology, economics, sociology, etc., and is defined in a sufficiently comprehensive manner. While not denying the possibility of considering demography as a sub-field of one or another subject, at least for certain special purposes, it is suggested that demography should be logically viewed as the totality of convergent and inter-related factors and topics which (although these could be, spearately, the concern of many difl'erent subjects like genetics and anthropology, sociology, education, psychology. economics, social and political affairs etc.) jointly, together with their mutual inter-actions, form the determinants as well as the consequences of growth (or decline), changes in composition, territorial movements, and social mobility of population in different geographical regions or in the world as a whole, at any given period of time, or over difl'erent periods of time. Such a view would supply an aggregative, inter-related, and mutually interacting system of all those factors which have any influence over, or are influenced by, demographic or population changes over space and time.
  • Population in India is widely differentiated in ethnic composition, geographical and climatic conditions, social and cultural stratification, as well as by differences in economic status. Differential fertility therefore assumes a far more complex picture in India than anywhere in the world. Ethnic. geographical. socio-cultural and economic dilferences give a four-fold patterning with many complicated interactions. It is essential therefore to study different population groups separately.
  • some evidence is available to indicate that, in India, an increase in the income of the poorer people leads to an increase in the size of the family; and also that this tapers off after a certain critical level of income is attained, and is followed by a reduction in the size of the family at higher levels of living When a sufficient number of people reach the critical income, there would be a gradual decrease in the average birth rate with further increase in income.
  • The transformation of the advanced countries to their present stage has been brought about by the acceptance of a scientific and rational view of life and nature. The scientific view has already permeated in a large measure the administrative organizations of the advanced countries. The scientific revolution, the social revolution and the industrial revolution are three aspects of the modernization of every society; these three aspects may be distinguished but cannot be separated. The rate of economic growth in every country is determined both directly and indirectly by the rate of progress of science and technology; directly through the utilization of the results of research and development, and indirectly through institutional changes brought about by the increasing influence of the scientific out-look and tradition.
  • India has a medieval and authoritarian structure of society and the tradition of science is not yet strong. The power of government officials is increasing as an inescapable result of the pervasive anthoritarian character of lndian society.
  • In the absence of social awareness and appreciation of the scientific objectivity among sufficiently large number of civil servants or political leaders,the need of validity has not yet been accepted in the official statistical system in India. Ofcial statistics in India is treated as an integral part of the dministrative system which is regulated by the principle of authority. Approval of statistical estimates at a high level of authority is accepted as a bstitnte for validity in many ases there is continuing opposition to independent cross-hccks for the validity of the data. Officials have the feeling that two independent estimates, which might differ would be confusing and, in fact unthinkable; therefore independent cross-checks in statistics should be eliminated.
  • Without the progress of equality and improvement in the level of living at least beyond the poverty line, for one quarter of the population of the world who live in South Asia, there would be grave repercussions on the rest of the world. The problem of the underdeveloped country is, in one sense, of greater concern to the advanced countries because international rivalries and tensions arise from the desire to establish spheres of influence over underdeveloped areas. The very existence of underdeveloped regions would he therefore a continuing threat to world security, and world peace. A quick transformation of the underdeveloped countries into industrialized economies would reduce the sphere of conflicting interests; and hence decrease the tension between East and West.

Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis in VigyanprasarEdit

Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis (pdf). Official website Vigyanprasar. Retrieved on 14 December 2013.

  • We believe that the idea underlying this integral concept of statistics finds adequate expression in the ancient Indian work Sankhya in |Sanskrit the usual meaning is ‘number‘, but the original root meaning was ‘determinate knowledge’ in the Atharva Veda a derivative from Sankhyata occurs both in the sense of ‘well-known‘ as well as ‘numbered’. The lexicons give both meanings. Amarakosa gives Sankhyavicarana (deliberation, analysis) as well as ‘number’; also Sankhyavanpanditah (wise, learned).
  • It would be, however, a fatal mistake to establish an expensive system of education on the model of the advanced countries which would have little relevance to local needs and would be beyond the means of the national economy. It is necessary to evolve a system, through experimentation and trial and success, which would be within the means of the national economy.

About P.C.MahalanobisEdit

  • [He} was one of Tagore's rare friends who did not place him simply on a high pedestal full of only aura and fame, but treated him as a lively intellectual and affectionate companion.
  • Just as Tagore sought to bring humanity closer through Visva-Bharati or his one-nest-world university at Santiniketan, Prasanta Chandra strove to use the ideal of humanism through statistics.
    • Uma Dasgupta, a former professor of the Indian Statistical Institute quoted in “ P.C. Mahalanobis, Tagore shared ideals.
  • The 'Mahalanobis Era' in statistics which started in the early twenties has ended. Indeed it will be remembered for all time to come as the golden period of statistics in India, marked by intensive development of a new technology and its applications for the welfare of mankind.
  • C.R.Rao quoted in }Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis"
  • ...l have been deeply struck by his broad and comprehensive approach to National Development and his astonishing energy. He is full of ideas and it is always a pleasure to discuss any subject with him.
    • Jawaharlal Nehru in "Professor P.C. Mahalanobis and the Development of Population Statistics in lndia".
  • I need hardly say that I refer to the emergence of a statistically competent technique of Sample Survey, with which I believe Professor Mahalanobis name will always be associated.
    • Sir Ronald Fisher in "Professor P.C. Mahalanobis and the Development of Population Statistics in India"
  • What at first strongly attracted my admiration was that the Professor‘s work was not imitative….The experience of India will serve as a guidance and as an example worthy of imitating.
  • Seng in "Professor P.C. Mahalanobis and the Development of Population Statistics in India"
  • No technique of random sample has, so far as I can find, been developed in the United States or elsewhere, which can compare in accuracy or in economy with that described by Professor Mahalanobis.
    • By Harold Hoteliing a well-known US mathematical statistician, in 1938 quoted in "Professor P.C. Mahalanobis and the Development of Population Statistics in India."
  • Everybody knows him as the founder of the Indian Statistical Institute, the architect of the Second Five Year Plan, a close associate of Rabindranath Tagore and as one who had richly contributed to the social, cultural and intellectual life in Bengal. All those in the statistical profession were aware of his deep contributions to statistical theory, his efforts in providing a sound database to the Indian economy, and the part he played in placing India not far from the centre of the statistical map of the world. Those who have been closely associated with him have witnessed the indomitable courage and tenacity in fighting opposition for a good cause and clearing obstacles for propagating right principles.
    • C. R. Rao in "Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis in Vigyanprasar".
  • l have always noticed how you are always capable to maintain objectivity in your judgement about people and l have always recognised that to be a great quality in you.
    • Tagore in "Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis in Vigyanprasar".
  • What you have written after analyzing everything connected with my achievements and fame is altogether correct.
    • Tagore in "Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis in Vigyanprasar".
  • l have liked your article very much. The way you have narrated the history of my humanism in an evolutionary perspective has made this aspect of mine clearer even to me.
    • Tagore in "Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis in Vigyanprasar".
  • If Mahalanobis had done nothing else, if he had only founded Sankhya, the Indian Journal of Statistics, even so his contribution to science would have been outstanding and memorable. Sankhya is an international journal in the sense that it receives contributions from statisticians and probabilists the world over; international as in the sense of maintaining a standard comparable to the best in the world. And this has been from the very beginning. This is something that cannot be said of many scientific journals in the country
    • Professor Ashok Rudra, a well-known economist and biographer in "Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis in Vigyanprasar".
    • He was an indian mathematician

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