First-Hand:IEEE Award Recipient Series:Calyampudi R. Rao


Full name

Calyampudi R. Rao

Birth date


What Award did you receive from IEEE?

IEEE Honorary Membership 2022

Place of Birth

Hadagali, India

Where did you grow up

Andhra Pradesh, India

Family Background: Parents and their education level & Siblings and their education/profession

Father C.D. Naidu, was a detective inspector of police. I credit my mother Laxmikantamma for supporting my education - "in my younger days, my mother woke me up every day at four in the morning and lit the oil lamp for me to study in the quiet hours of the morning when the mind is fresh". 10 siblings (6 brothers and 4 sisters). One of my sisters, Sanjeevamma, with no school or college education, was a Telugu poetess, my oldest brother was in the Railway police force, another brother, C.V. Rao, was a doctor and a gold medalist from Andhra University, India. My younger brother C. Ramchandra Rao was an engineer.

What did you want to do when you grew up?

Rao - When I was 11, I could do complicated arithmetical problems without paper and pencil. My father appreciated my interest in mathematics and my good performance in school, and he thought that I should eventually get a degree in mathematics and proceed to do research to get a doctorate degree. My entry into mathematics resulted from the encouragement I received from my father, my own interest in solving mathematical problems, and my desire to fulfill my father’s wish about me.

What was your upbringing like? Did you have a large family?

We grew up with 8 siblings who survived out of the 10. Our parents stressed the importance of discipline and education. Everyone helped in the house as it was a large family.

Did you have any hobbies (eg. Some people talk about learning trade skills from a family member.)

Enjoyed drawing and playing sports.

Did you partake in after school activities? Did you play sports?

Soccer, debating, art

Did you have a part-time job (after school, summer)? What was your most surprising job assignment?


Did you take vacations and/or go on day trips? Favorite holiday/family gathering?

My mother did not encourage too many distractions as it would interfere with studying.

EDUCATION: Favorite subject in school (K-12, university). Why?

Mathematics as solving problems fascinated me.

Did you have a least favorite subject in school (K-12, university. Why?


Why did you select the university (universities) you attended? What was your major and why did you select it?

I pursued my interest in mathematics by joining the Andhra University in Visakapatnam where my family was living. The Mathematics department in Andhra University was well established and very well known. The head of the Mathematics Department was Cambridge educated Dr. Vommi Ramaswami who ""inculcated in me a spirit of enquiry, which enabled me to pursue research all through my academic career, extending over a period of 80 years"". I did not get a scholarship to pursue research in mathematics at Andhra University due to bureaucratic rules. I applied for a job as a mathematician in the army. A chance meeting with a student from the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI), Kolkata, India that changed the course of my life. I joined the one-year training course at ISI. By June 1941, I was admitted into the newly-created MA course in Statistics at Calcutta University. At the request of the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Cambridge, UK, I was sent to Cambridge to analyze some skeletal data from North Africa, collected by the University Museum. I was chosen for this assignment as I had some publications in multivariate analysis and also had experience in applying Mahalanobis distance on anthropometric data. I completed project at the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, resulting in the book, Ancient Inhabitants of Jebel Moya, Cambridge University Press, 1955. I wrote my thesis based on new statistical methodology in multivariate analysis developed while working at the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology under the direction of the celebrated statistician R.A. Fisher. I was awarded Ph. D by Cambridge University.

  • Sc. D. Cambridge University 1965
  • Ph. D (Statistics) Cambridge University 1945
  • MA (Statistics) Calcutta University 1943
  • MA (Mathematics) Andhra University 1940

Employment and career: First job - Current position - Favorite job

Positions held at the Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata, India

  1. Technical Apprentice 1943-44
  2. Superintending Statistician 1944-48
  3. Professor and Head of the Research and Training School (RTS) 1949-63
  4. Director, RTS 1964-72
  5. Secretary and Director 1972-76
  6. Jawaharlal Nehru Professor 1976-84
  7. National Professor (India) 1987-92


  1. University Professor, University of Pittsburgh 1979 -1988
  2. Adjunct Professor, University of Pittsburgh 1988 -
  3. Eberly Professor of Statistics, Pennsylvania State University (PSU) 1988 - 2001
    • Director of the Center for Multivariate Analysis, PSU 2001 - 2010
    • Eberly Professor Emeritus of Statistics, PSU June 2001-
  4. Research Professor, University at Buffalo, SUNY 2010 –

Has your career turned out as you expected?

Better than expected

Has IEEE played a role in your career? How? What does IEEE mean to you?

Many aspects of my work have applications in engineering, especially signal processing and communications.

You have been awarded one of IEEE's highest-level awards. What does this award mean to you?

It is an honor to be recognized by an organization other than in the field of Statistics and Mathematics, areas my work is typically associated with.

Career Advice: What advice would you give to young professionals entering your field today?

I have always valued research. Jobs in the research field may not necessarily be the best paid but the fundamental contributions you make to the advancement of science impacting various aspects of life is very worthy.

Reflection: What would you have done differently or tell your younger self now?

Many of the decisions in my life happened by chance, choosing to do statistics over a job in the military as an army mathematician, being sent to Cambridge to analyze data which resulted in a PhD degree. I am glad for the risks I took.

Was there a project that you were so passionate about that you continued to pursue it even though there may have been doubts about its success?


What career achievement are you most proud of?

ScD from Cambridge which was based on peer review of my research work.

Personal Life: What do you do for fun? Hobbies?

Photography, gardening, routine walks, watching classical dance concerts, writing humorous articles

What personal achievement are you most proud of?

The students I have mentored, 50 doctoral scholars, many of whom have become leaders in their research areas, receiving international recognition.

Do you have a favorite food? Or a family recipe that may have been passed down?

Lightly spiced Indian cuisine.

Do you have a favorite genre of music? or a favorite song? Or do you play an instrument?

Classical Indian Music

Do you have a prize possession? If so, please explain.

A collection of mother and child and dancers figurines collected from around the world

What are three things people may not know about you?

A quiet sense of humor, a disciplined life style, keen sense of observations in everyday life

Who was your mentor? (eg. family member or professor)

Professor P.C. Mahalanobis and R.A. Fisher

What is one thing you cannot live without in your work space?

A piece of paper and a pen

Anything else you would like to share about yourself?

My family was my life.