Prasanta Chandra Mahalonobis famous as ‘Numbers Man’ was a renowned Indian Scientist and applied statistician. He is best known for Mahalonobis distance – a statistical measure and founded the Indian Statistical Institute.
“The spirit and outlook of ‘Sankhya’ will be universal, but its form and content must necessarily be, to some extent, regional”PC Mahalonobis
He went to Brahmo Boys School, Calcutta and did his BSc in Physics from Presidency College. He went to Cambridge for further studies and returned India on invitation to teach Physics in the same Presidency College. For some time he went back again to England and there he liked a journal named Biometrika. He was so fascinated that he brought a complete set to India. He discovered the utility of Statistics to problems in metrology, anthropology and began working on his way back to India.
His most important contributions were in large scale sample surveys by introducing the concept of pilot surveys and usefulness of sampling methods. Early surveys began between 1937 to 1944. It included consumer expenditure, tea-drinking habits, public opinion, crop acreage and plant disease.
He was a member of Planning Commission. In 2nd five-year plan he emphasised on Industrialization on the basis of two-sector model. The first one was on Wassily Leontiffs I/p – O/p model and the second on Mahalonobis model. This model was employed in the 2nd five-year plan which worked towards Rapid Industrialization of India.
He served as secretary to Rabindranath Tagore and worked at his Vishva Bharathi University for some time. He was awarded the Padma Vibhusan in 1968 for his contribution to Science and services to the country.
He died a day before his birthday on 28 June 1972. At that time, he was secretary and director of ISI and statistical adviser (honorary) to the Cabinet, Government of India.