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David Salsburg, who retired in 1995 after 27 years as a statistician in Central Research, Groton, has been filling his days consulting, teaching, traveling and writing. He has just completed his 10th year of teaching statistics to undergraduates at Yale University as a part-time lecturer, and has now published his first novel, Love Feeds Among the Lilies.
Play in Everyone’s Backyards
David was a senior research advisor in Central Research at Pfizer. On a typical day he would design new statistical models for clinical trials studies, or help a pharmacologist understand difficult statistical concepts. He aimed to find and create meaning in large sets of data and numbers.
“The advantage of being a statistician is that it lets you play in everyone’s backyards,” said David.
“I was able to be involved in work done by pharmacologists, chemists, toxicologists and market researchers. I had the chance to become involved in almost every area of scientific development at Pfizer by showing colleagues how to make sense of data they were working with.”
In 1994, David was awarded the Career Achievement Award of the Biostatistics Section of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. This award is given annually for significant contributions to the advancement of biostatistics in the pharmaceutical industry.
“I felt the outcome of my work helped human beings, which gave me a great sense of accomplishment,” said David.
Statistics Lecturer and Author
David has continued pursuing his passion for statistics since retiring in 1995.
He wrote the popular science book The Lady Tasting Tea: How Statistics Revolutionized Science in the Twentieth Century. It describes the origins of modern statistical methods and the men and women behind them. The book has become supplemental reading in many introductory statistics courses in high schools and colleges.
He also spends time as a part-time lecturer at Yale. David teaches statistical courses to classes of around 80 students. He likes to engage his students in critical thinking by prompting them with philosophical questions such as, “What do we mean by cause and effect?”
Keeping his hand in statistics, he has also continued to publish articles in statistics journals. Among his post-Pfizer investigations was an analysis of word frequencies in the books supposedly written by Davy Crockett. He was able to show the disparities between the published works and test their authenticity based on statistical evidence.
Writing, Traveling and Family
Keeping busy, David recently published a new novel, Love Feeds Among the Lilies. His novel elaborates on a story hinted at in the biblical Song of Songs. The book contrasts the bucolic countryside filled with love and the flowers of spring with the sophistication and corruption of the city.
“I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to write,” said David. “So I put my ideas on paper to see what they looked like.”
Apart from writing, David enjoys traveling with his wife, Fran. They have been to many places around the world including Spain, Italy, Israel, Australia, Alaska and Hungary. “I especially liked the Gaudi architecture in Barcelona, Spain, and the Renaissance art in Italy,” said David.
David and his wife also travel to visit their four children and nine grandchildren. They travel from their home in New London, Conn., to California to attend their grandchildren’s sporting events.
Out of their nine grandchildren, they have one granddaughter and eight grandsons. His wife remarks, “This is statistically improbable.”