The University of Michigan mathematician Harry C. Carver founded the Annals of Mathematical Statistics in 1930, loosely under the aegis of the American Statistical Association (ASA), with modest financial support from the ASA. The preface to the first issue was written by the Secretary-Treasurer and future President of the ASA, Professor Willford I. King of New York University. In that preface, King boldly claimed that the ASA had been in the vanguard for 91 years, and in order to remain there, they needed to include the increasingly complex mathematical techniques that were then being introduced. Willford King stated, “For some time past, however, it has been evident that the membership of our organization is tending to become divided into two groups — those familiar with advanced mathematics, and those who have not devoted themselves to this field. The mathematicians are, of course, interested in articles of a type which are not intelligible to the non-mathematical readers of our Journal.” (King, 1930) King predicted that the Annals would help serve both groups, and he expected it to include both theory and applications.

Those early Annals appear today a bit quaint, filled for the first few years mostly with review articles (all with handwritten formulas), unending pages of formulas for moments and semi-invariants of various statistics, and a few reprinted articles from other sources. The original articles that did appear were a curious mix. Articles that we recognize today as of great historical significance, like Harold Hotelling’s 1931 Annals paper “The Generalization of Student’s Ratio” were exceedingly rare — in fact, I have just named them all. More typical was a cute little 1933 simulation study by Selby Robinson, “An Experiment Regarding the Chi-Square Test”. Robinson’s simulation (based on coin tosses) verified for a simple example that Ronald Fisher had indeed been correct in his correction of Karl Pearson regarding the degrees of freedom when parameters are estimated.

In 1933 the ASA came under the same overriding concerns for budget that have recurrently plagued it ever since, and in December of that year the same Willford I. King (who you will recall had endorsed the Annals in 1930) led the move to strip the Annals of its meager ASA subsidy. King had done an early form of a spreadsheet analysis and claimed that half the cost of producing the Annals was being subsidized by non-Annals subscribers — as he put it, “members, most of whom are not specialists in mathematics, and hence find the articles in the Annals not particularly adapted to their needs.” (Hunter, 1996) In fact, King’s bookkeeping was faulty — his budget included a salary for the Annals Editor when none was being paid (nor, as a matter of principle, has a salary ever been paid to an IMS editor), and he assumed there would be no loss of membership in ASA with the demise of the Annals. But the hero of the day was Editor Harry C. Carver, who in January 1934 took over the Annals at his own expense and maintained it without institutional base or support.

By October of 1934, Carver had evolved an idea for an association of mathematical statisticians as a base for the Annals, and despite his earlier experiences he approached the ASA again, to see if he could arrange for such an association within the ASA. The ASA was interested, but in the end the interest was insufficient. On the one hand, the ASA did not want a new organization dedicated to statistics to start without their involvement, nor, on the other hand, in the words of their President Frederick C. Mills, an economist at Columbia University, did they want to encourage the establishment within the ASA of “a movement which [might] tend towards the disintegration of the Association.” (Hunter, 1996) Given his past experience with ASA, Carver was reluctant to pursue an affiliation further, and he and a number of like-minded mathematical statisticians, particularly the University of Iowa’s H. L. Rietz, moved forward on their own. The IMS was officially organized at a meeting at Ann Arbor on September 12, 1935, with H. L. Rietz as President, Walter Shewhart as vice-president, Allen T. Craig as Secretary/Treasurer, and the three original voting Fellows — a sort of membership committee — being Burton H. Camp, Arthur R. Crathorne, and Harold Hotelling. They designated the Annals as the official journal of the Institute. Later, in 1938 the IMS took over full financial responsibility for the Annals from Carver.

In 1938 Wilks succeeded Carver as Editor of the Annals and appointed a stellar editorial board, consisting of Fisher, Neyman, Cramer, Hotelling, Egon Pearson, Darmois, Craig, Deming, von Mises, Rietz, and Shewhart. Sam Wilks edited the Annals for a dozen years, and he transformed the Annals into the most influential statistics journal in the world. [Extracted from Stephen Stigler (1996)]


  • Craig, Cecil C. (1978). Harry C. Carver, 1890-1977. Annals of Statistics 6: 1-4.
  • Hotelling, Harold (1931). The Generalization of Student’s Ratio. The Annals of Mathematical Statistics 2: 360-378.
  • Hunter, Patti W. (1996). Drawing the Boundaries: Mathematical Statistics in 20th-Century America. Historia Mathematica 23: 7-30.
  • King, Willford I. (1930). The Annals of Mathematical Statistics. The Annals of Mathematical Statistics 1: 1-2.
  • Robinson, Selby (1933). An Experiment Regarding the Chi-square Test. The Annals of Mathematical Statistics 4: 285-287.
  • Stigler, Stephen M. (1996). The History of Statistics in 1933. Statistical Science 11:244-252