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British Indian statistician conferred prestigious UK honour

Professor Kanti Mardia OBE
Professor Kanti Mardia OBE

Professor Kanti Mardia, a distinguished mathematician from Yorkshire and a University of Leeds academic, has been awarded an OBE (Order of the British Empire) for services to statistical science by King Charles III in his New Year's Honours List.

Professor Mardia has been a fellow of the Royal Statistical Society since 1964 and a Visiting Professor at Oxford University. He has travelled widely, visiting universities across the globe to advance statistical science.

"It is nice to be recognised outside the academia. I've received several accolades and medals from professional societies. But it's truly an honour to receive the OBE from His Highness King Charles III, also widely recognised in the UK and the world.

"This is my tribute to my PhD students, research fellow, colleagues and collaborators who work together to make such a large and successful statistical community in Leeds and more widely across the UK and internationally," Prof Mardia said.

The founding Vice-President of the International Indian Statistical Association (IISA), Prof Mardia has received many prestigious honours during his career, including the Guy Medal in Silver of the Royal Statistical Society in 2003, which also runs the annual Mardia Prize. He received the Wilks Memorial Medal from the American Statistical Society in 2013 and the Gandhi Medal of Honour.

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Born and raised in India, the Yorkshire-based mathematician had completed his first PhD at the University of Rajasthan. From his early days, Prof Mardia was a team builder and worked with various scientists from different fields to help them solve their data analysis problems. Inter-disciplinary problem-solving was central to his statistical mission.

Professor Mardia's research includes life-saving shape analysis to assess the extent of brain damage in people exposed to alcohol before birth – known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Another of his projects is related to craniofacial surgery for deformities such as cleft lip and the ability of patients to make natural facial expressions following surgery, such as smiling.

"My community services have two forms—one related to Statistical Science and another to Jainism and Science. In the first case, I wanted to break the walls between different disciplines by bringing Statisticians and Scientists from emerging areas together so the research outcome is more powerful. I have been motivated by my mission statement: 'Statistics without science is incomplete, Science without statistics is imperfect'," he said.

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"Another is related to my work on Jainism and Science. I believe in the words of Albert Einstein – 'Science without religion is lame, Religion without science is blind', he added.

As a Jain, belonging to one of the world's oldest living cultures, Prof Mardia founded the Yorkshire Jain Foundation and wrote many highly influential books on Jain Philosophy and Science. His Festschrift volume was published by Wiley in 2016.

"The Ahimsa principle of Jain thinking is very relevant in current time, and to the seekers, this provides a bigger scientific picture," he informed.

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He has constructed the "Four Noble Truths of Jains" for scientific seekers in contemporary language. These are disseminated through lectures, albums, and the inter-faith activities of the Yorkshire Jain Foundation.

"I have always been passionate about Mathematics and a seeker of Scientific Truth. I have been disseminating the knowledge I have gained over the years depending on the context of Statistical Science or Jain Science, respectively," Prof Mardia concluded.

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