Lincoln Moses, pioneer in biostatistics, dies at 84

Lincoln Moses

Lincoln E. Moses, PhD, professor emeritus of health research and policy and of statistics, who spearheaded the development of biostatistics at Stanford, died Dec. 17 at his home in Portola Valley. He was 84.

Born in Kansas City, Mo., on Dec. 21, 1921, Moses obtained an AB in 1941 and a PhD in statistics in 1950, both at Stanford. After serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II, he resumed his education in 1947 and subsequently spent two years on the faculty at Columbia University before returning to Stanford in 1952.

Moses held a split appointment between the Department of Statistics and the medical school's Department of Health Research and Policy. Those twin interests led him to become one of the early leaders in moving statistics from the realm of the academic to the applied and to his founding of the medical school's Division of Biostatistics.

The statistics departments of the 1950s and 1960s focused mainly on mathematics, said Bradley Efron, PhD, the Max H. Stein Professor and professor of statistics and of health research and policy, who knew Moses as both mentor and colleague.

Efron credited Moses with opening "a window on a different world of statistics for me and for many people, where you help people with their actual statistical problems, and he was remarkably good at that."

Moses also headed the Energy Information Administration in the Department of Energy under President Carter from 1978 to 1980, when the first oil crisis was upon the country and the government needed accurate data on oil consumption and other energy usage for crafting policy.

At Stanford, researchers throughout the medical school consulted with Moses. Although Moses had no medical background, "he could listen to somebody for half an hour and really understand what a person in the medical community was working on," Efron said. "He was a wonderful teacher of how to consult."

Added Efron, "Lincoln used to say, 'You have to have a good data-side manner,' and he had a wonderful data-side manner."

Though the biostatistics group has always been relatively small, Efron said Moses' influence has been felt throughout the United States as graduates of the division have gone on to run departments on other campuses.

Moses held several administrative posts on campus during his career. He headed the Department of Statistics from 1964 to 1968. From 1965 to 1968 he was associate dean in humanities and sciences, and again for the 1985-86 academic year. He was dean of graduate studies from 1969 to 1975. From 1975 to 1976 he was a fellow at Stanford's Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences.

In 1980, he and other faculty members organized and taught an interdisciplinary "peace studies" class that has continued ever since.

Moses also had a lifelong interest in the natural world, enjoying birding activities, backpacking and hiking.

He is survived by his second wife, Mary Lou (Coale) Moses, five children from his first marriage and four stepchildren from his second.

A memorial service is being planned for February; information will be available from Kevin Horner in the Department of Health Research and Policy at 723-5082 or kahorner@stanford.edu.