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SSA ACT Branch - Knibbs Lecture

In honour of Sir George Handley Knibbs' impact on statistics in Australia, SSA ACT Branch holds an annual Knibbs lecture named after him. An eminent statistician, not necessarily from Australia, is invited to present a lecture on a topic of interest to an audience of primarily statisticians.

The Knibbs lecture has become a main event for the branch, with the annual dinner held in conclusion of the lecture. The event is generally the final meeting of the year, held in late November or early December.

Short Biography

Sir George Handley Knibbs Kt, CMG (1858 - 1929) began his career as a surveyor in the New South Wales Survey Department. He was interested in education, and in the fashion of the times, was a poet conversant with several languages, ancient and modern, an artist, philosopher and lover of music. He taught mathematics and physics at the University of Sydney and later became Director of Technical Education for NSW. It was he who instituted the Official Year Book; throughout his tenure as Commonwealth Statistician (commenced in 1906 and concluded in 1921) he maintained his strong mathematical and statistical interest in population problems, and published The Mathematical Theory of Population, first separately in 1917 and later as an appendix to the Report on the Australian Census of 1921. He was much concerned with the Malthusian theory that population would outgrow food supplies, a threat which has become even more serious today.

Knibbs retired in 1921 to become Director of the Institute of Science and Industry; he was succeeded in 1922 by Charles H. Wickens (1872 - 1939) who had also joined the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics in 1906 from Western Australia.

For a wider reading of Sir George Handley Knibbs' career and life, see Professor Chris Heyde's article on "Official statistics in the late colonial period leading on to the work of the first Commonwealth Statistician, G.H.Knibbs" in The Australian Journal of Statistics, Special Volume30B, August 1988. Professor Joe Gani also wrote of Sir G. H. Knibbs in his article "Some aspects in the development of statistics in Australia" which appeared in The Australian Journal of Statistics, Volume 18, Numbers 1 and 2, August 1976.

Two longer biographies of George Knibbs may be found here

Previous Knibbs Lecture speakers         



Title of lecture

Speaker Affiliation



Prof Herbert David

The theory of competing risks

Iowa State University, USA

Dr Stefan Maritz (CSIRO), 
Prof Hasofer (UNSW)


Prof David Cox

Foundations of statistical inference: the arguments for eclecticism

Imperial College, London, UK

Prof Pat Moran (ANU),
Prof Finch (Monash)

Prof Toby Lewis (Hull)



Prof Oscar Kempthorne

Foundations of statistical thinking and reasoning

Iowa State University, USA


Dr Bill Norton

Information problems of economic advisers

Reserve Bank

Dr Higgins (Treasury),
Dr Ironmonger (Uni of Melb),
Mr Ken Foreman (ABS)


Prof Toby Lewis

Society, statistics and statisticians

Open University, UK

Prof Evan Williams (Uni of Melb),
Prof Ted Hannan (ANU),
Dr Chris Heyde (CSIRO)


Dr Joe Gani

An adventure in publishing: Eighteen years of the Applied Probability Trust


Prof Evan Williams (Uni of Melb),
Dr Chris Heyde (CSIRO)


No Knibbs lecture held this year


Mr E.K. (Ken) Foreman

Survey design

Research School of Social Sciences, ANU


Prof Leslie Kish

Sample surveys vs experiments, controlled observations, censuses

University of Michigan, USA

Mr Dennis Trewin (ABS),
Mr Ken Brewer (BAE)


Dr Richard Tweedie

Public sector statistics in the private sector: some examples and problems in their use



Dr Terry Speed

The role of statisticians in CSIRO: Past, Present, and Future


Dr Richard Tweedie (Siromath),
Prof Ted Hannan (ANU)


Prof Alastair Scott

Interpreting confidence intervals for opinion polls

University of Auckland, NZ

Mr Ken Brewer (ANU),
Mr David Leaver (ABS)


Prof Peter Hall

Computer intensive statistical methods: What does the future hold?

Australian National University

Dr Nick Fisher (CSIRO),
Dr Mike Osborne (ANU) 


Dr Ron Sandland

Who owns data analysis?



Prof Niels Becker

Statistical challenges of AIDS

La Trobe University

Prof Chip Heathcote (ANU),
Dr Patty Solomon (ANU)


Prof Murray Aitkin 

Statistical consulting, research, computing, theory and teaching - the roles of a university Statistical Consulting Centre

University of Lancaster, UK

Mr Ross Cunningham (ANU), 
Mr Richard Morton (CSIRO)


Dr Alan Gleeson

The changing role of Biometricians in NSW Agriculture

NSW Agriculture

Dr John Reynolds (Vic Dept of Ag), 
Dr Jeff Wood (CSIRO)


Dr Dennis Trewin

A comparison of two statistical systems

Statistics New Zealand, NZ

Dr Fellegi (StatsCanada), 
Mr Castles (ABS)


Prof Charles McGilchrist

Generalised linear mixed models

National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, ANU

Dr Alan Welsh (ANU), 
Mr Richard Morton (CSIRO)


Mr Bill McLennan AM

The ABS product - issues and prospects

Australian Bureau of Statistics

Dr Tom Karmel (DEET), 
Dr Bruce Armstrong (AIHW)


Prof Chip Heathcote

Mortality surfaces and health processes

Australian National University

Dr Christabel Young (ANU), 
Dr Richard Madden (AIHW)


Prof Susan Wilson

Who counts and why? A perspective of the history of women and men in statistics

Australian National University

Prof Joe Gani (ANU), 
Ms Susan Linacre (ABS)


Prof Geoff Eagleson

Selling statistics: is it time to segment the market?

University of New South Wales

Prof Alan Welsh (ANU), 
Ms Gemma van Halderen (ABS)


Dr Nick Fisher

Statistics and performance management


Prof John Robinson (USYD)
Mr Dennis Trewin (ABS)


Prof Alan Welsh

Incomplete detection in enumeration surveys: Whither distance sampling?

Australian National University

Dr Ann Cowling (ANU)
Mr Geoff Lee (ABS)


No Knibbs lecture held this year


Prof Oliver Mayo

To what extent has Fisher's Research Programme been fulfilled In Australia?


Professor Sue Wilson (ANU)
Prof Andrew Cockburn (ANU)


Prof William Dunsmuir

Estimation and modelling in time series of dependent counts

University of New South Wales

Professor Ross Maller (ANU)
Dr Steven Stern (FAS, ANU)


Prof Adrian Baddeley

The difficulty of selling cheap things

University of Western Australia

Professor Alan Welsh (ANU)
Dr Simon Barry (BRS)


Prof Peter Thomson

Hidden markov models: Some examples of their application and reflections on their use

Statistical Research Ltd., NZ


Dr Richard Jarrett

The Complexity of risk



Prof Rob Hyndman

Population forecasting and the importance of being uncertain

Monash University


Prof Matt Wand

Variational approximations in Statistics

University of Wollongong

Dr Mark Clements (ANU)

Mr Daniel Elazar (ABS)


Prof Joe Gani

Mathematical models for the spread of epidemics

Australian National University

Prof Alan Welsh (ANU)

Prof Daryl Daley (Uni of Melbourne)


Prof Neville Weber

Scaling courses for university admission purposes

University of Sydney

Helen Strauch (ACT Edu)

Warren Müller (CSIRO)


Prof Chris Field

Robustness as applied to marine ecology

University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Prof John Robinson (Uni of Sydney)

A. Prof Gavin Huttley, (ANU)


Prof David Griffiths

The thrown coin: who gives a toss?

Adventures in the design of the golden die and in binary regression

University of Wollongong

Alice Richardson

Michael Adena (Datalytics)


Prof Louise Ryan

On the challenge of covariate selection in environmental epidemiology

University of Technology Sydney

Prof Steven Roberts (ANU)

Dr Shuvo Bakar (CSIRO)


Prof Noel Cressie

Statistical modelling of big, spatial, non-Gaussian data: The MODIS cloud mask product 

University of Wollongong

Dr Philip Kokic (CSIRO)

Dr Daniel Elazar (ABS)


Prof Bendix Carstensen

The resurrection of time as a continuous concept in biostatistics, demography and epidemiology

Steno Diabetes Center, Copenhagen, Denmark

Ian McDermid (ANU)


Prof David Kalisch

'Big Data', official statistics and national statistical offices

Australian Statistician, Australian Bureau of Statistics


A/Prof Rachel Fewster

Statistical stocking fillers

University of Auckland

A/Prof Han Lin Shang (ANU)


Prof Eric Stone

Is the discipline of statistics destined for disruption?

Australian National University

 2019  Prof James Carpenter Missing data: A statistical framework for practice  London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine  Dr Alice Richardson (ANU) 
 2020 Prof Ray Carroll  A Personal Tour: The complex nature of nutrient and food intakes, and the effects this complexity has on understanding dietary distributions and their effects on mortality and chronic disease  Texas A&M University Prof Alan Welsh (ANU); In honour of Prof Welsh's 60th birthday
2021 Prof David Steel  Perspectives on sample surveys  University of Wollongong   
2022 Dr Heather Battey  The role of R. A. Fisher and D. R. Cox in the development of statistics Imperial College London  
2023     Prof Hans-Peter Piepho A world of differences  University of Hohenheim   


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