David Spiegelhalter

Sir David John Spiegelhalter OBE FRS (born 16 August 1953) is a British statistician and Winton Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk in the Statistical Laboratory at the University of Cambridge[3] and a Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge.[1][4][5][6] Spiegelhalter is an ISI highly cited researcher.

Sir David Spiegelhalter

Cmglee David Spiegelhalter 2013 Cambridge Science Festival.jpg
David Spiegelhalter presenting at the 2013 Cambridge Science Festival
David John Spiegelhalter

(1953-08-16) 16 August 1953 (age 68)
Barnstaple, Devon, England
Alma mater
Scientific career
ThesisAdaptive inference using finite mixture models (1978)
Doctoral advisorAdrian Smith[2]

On 27 May 2020 he joined the board of the UK Statistics Authority as a non-executive director for a period of three years.[7]

Early life and educationEdit

Spiegelhalter was born on 16 August 1953: his name means "Mirror holder" in German. [8] He was educated at Barnstaple Grammar School, a state grammar school in Barnstaple, Devon, from 1963 to 1970.[9] He then studied mathematics at Keble College, Oxford, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in 1974.[10][11] He moved to University College London, where he gained his Master of Science (MSc) degree in statistics in 1975 and a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in mathematical statistics in 1978.[10][11] His doctoral thesis was titled "Adaptive Inference Using Finite Mixture Models",[12] and was supervised by Adrian Smith.[2]


Spiegelhalter was research assistant in Brunel University in 1976[11] and then visiting lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley, 1977–78. After his PhD, he was a research assistant for the Royal College of Physicians; he was based at the University of Nottingham, where his PhD supervisor, Adrian Smith, had been appointed a professor.

From 1981 he was at the Medical Research Council Biostatistics Unit at Cambridge. He has been an honorary lecturer at the University of Hong Kong since 1991. He has also been a consultant for GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis and the World Anti-Doping Agency. He played a leading role in the public inquiries into children's heart surgery at the Bristol Royal Infirmary and the murders by Harold Shipman.[13]

Between 2007 and 2012 he divided his work[14] between the Cambridge Statistical Laboratory (three-fifths) and the Medical Research Council Biostatistics Unit (two-fifths).[15] He left the MRC in March 2012[16] and worked full-time at the Statistical Laboratory as the Winton Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk until his retirement. He remains chair of the Winton Centre. As of 2012 Spiegelhalter has supervised 7 PhD students.[11][17]

David Spiegelhalter playing with Arco Iris Samba band, July 2009

In 2012, Spiegelhalter hosted the BBC Four documentary Tails You Win: The Science of Chance which described the application of probability in everyday life.[18] He also presented a 2013 Cambridge Science Festival talk, How to Spot a Shabby Statistic at the Babbage Lecture Theatre in Cambridge.[6][19]

He was elected as President of the Royal Statistical Society, and took up the position on 1 January 2017.

In March 2020 Spiegelhalter launched a podcast called Risky Talk where he interviews experts in risk and evidence communication on topics like genetics, nutrition, climate change and immigration.[20]


Spiegelhalter's research interests are in statistics[1][21][22] including


Spiegelhalter was knighted in the 2014 Birthday Honours for services to statistics.[35][36]

Media appearancesEdit


  • Sex by Numbers: What Statistics Can Tell Us About Sexual Behaviour (2015, Wellcome Collection)
  • The Art of Statistics: Learning from Data (2019, Pelican)


  1. ^ a b c David Spiegelhalter publications indexed by Google Scholar
  2. ^ a b David Spiegelhalter at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  3. ^ "David Spiegelhalter's Personal Home Page". Retrieved 14 September 2011.
  4. ^ "Churchill College: Fellows: List of current Fellows". Retrieved 14 September 2011.
  5. ^ David Spiegelhalter's publications indexed by the Scopus bibliographic database. (subscription required)
  6. ^ a b David Spiegelhalter at IMDb
  7. ^ "Appointment of two new Non-Executive Directors to the UK Statistics Authority Board". Retrieved 27 May 2020.
  8. ^ "SPIEGELHALTER, Prof. David John". Who's Who. ukwhoswho.com. 2015 (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. (subscription or UK public library membership required) (subscription required)
  9. ^ Keeble, Andy (18 June 2014). "Barnstaple old boy knighted in Queen's Birthday honours". North Devon Gazette.
  10. ^ a b "Spiegelhalter, Sir David (John), (born 16 Aug. 1953), Chair, Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication, University of Cambridge, since 2017 (Winton Professor for the Public Understanding of Risk, 2007–18); Fellow, Churchill College, Cambridge". Who's Who 2021. Oxford University Press. 1 December 2020. Retrieved 29 August 2021.
  11. ^ a b c d "CURRICULUM VITAE - David John SPIEGELHALTER" (PDF). Understanding Uncertainty. Retrieved 10 May 2019.
  12. ^ Spiegelhalter, David (1978). Adaptive inference using finite mixture models (PhD thesis). University College London.
  13. ^ "Programme transcript". BBC News. 2 April 2006.
  14. ^ Spiegelhalter, David (October 2009). "Don's Diary" (PDF). CAM. Cambridge University Alumni Association. p. 3.
  15. ^ "MRC Biostatistics Unit: People". Archived from the original on 3 September 2011. Retrieved 15 September 2011.
  16. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 13 January 2012. Retrieved 25 April 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  17. ^ "David John Spiegelhalter". Mathematics Genealogy Project. Retrieved 2 September 2019.
  18. ^ BBC Four – Tails You Win: The Science of Chance
  19. ^ What’s On » Cambridge Science Festival – How to spot a shabby statistic
  20. ^ Risky Talk
  21. ^ David Spiegelhalter publications indexed by Microsoft Academic
  22. ^ David J. Spiegelhalter at DBLP Bibliography Server  
  23. ^ Spiegelhalter, D. J.; Best, N. G.; Carlin, B. P.; Linde, A. V. D. (2002). "Bayesian Measures of Model Complexity and Fit". Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. 64 (4): 583–639. doi:10.1111/1467-9868.00353.
  24. ^ Lauritzen, S. L.; Spiegelhalter, D. J. (1988). "Local Computations with Probabilities on Graphical Structures and Their Application to Expert Systems". Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. 50 (2): 157–224. JSTOR 2345762.
  25. ^ Gilks, W. R.; Richardson, S.; Spiegelhalter, D. J. (1996). Markov Chain Monte Carlo in Practice. Chapman & Hall. ISBN 978-0-412-05551-5.
  26. ^ Spiegelhalter, David; Thomas, Andrew; Best, Nicky; Lunn, Dave (January 2003), WinBUGS User Manual (Version 1.4 ed.), Robinson Way, Cambridge CB2 2SR, UK: MRC Biostatistics Unit, Institute of Public Health, PDF document, archived from the original on 3 March 2012, retrieved 27 February 2012CS1 maint: location (link)
  27. ^ Neuenschwander, B.; Capkun-Niggli, G.; Branson, M.; Spiegelhalter, D. J. (2010). "Summarizing historical information on controls in clinical trials". Clinical Trials. 7 (1): 5–18. doi:10.1177/1740774509356002. PMID 20156954.
  28. ^ Spiegelhalter, D.; Pearson, M.; Short, I. (2011). "Visualizing Uncertainty About the Future". Science. 333 (6048): 1393–1400. Bibcode:2011Sci...333.1393S. CiteSeerX doi:10.1126/science.1191181. PMID 21903802.
  29. ^ "David Spiegelhalter's blog | Understanding Uncertainty". Retrieved 15 September 2011.
  30. ^ Riesch, H.; Spiegelhalter, D. J. (2011). "'Careless pork costs lives': Risk stories from science to press release to media". Health, Risk & Society. 13: 47–64. doi:10.1080/13698575.2010.540645.
  31. ^ Outstanding Statistical Application Award, ASA, retrieved 31 March 2014.
  32. ^ "Weldon Memorial Prize and Medal – International Statistical Institute". Archived from the original on 14 August 2011. Retrieved 15 September 2011.
  33. ^ "David Spiegelhalter's Personal Home Page". www.statslab.cam.ac.uk. Retrieved 29 March 2016.
  34. ^ "Announcing our honours recipients for 2020".
  35. ^ "No. 60895". The London Gazette (Supplement). 14 June 2014. p. b2.
  36. ^ Gallagher, James (14 June 2014). "Prof Colin Blakemore: Medical research defender knighted". BBC News.

External linksEdit