Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation
Main content start

John Chambers

John Chambers was a member of Bell Labs research from 1966 until his retirement in 2005. In 1997, he became the first statistician to be named a Bell Labs Fellow, cited for ``pioneering contributions to the field of statistical computing''. His research has touched on nearly all aspects of computing with data but he is best known for the design (and continuing re-design) of the S language and its successor, R. Since 2008, he has been Consulting Professor, Department of Statistics, Stanford University.

In May of 1999, the Association for Computing Machinery presented him its Software System Award for the design of the S system. The ACM citation stated that “S has forever altered the way people analyze, visualize, and manipulate data”. This is the only time the award has been made for statistical software (previous citations included Unix, TeX, and the World-Wide Web). The money from the award was donated to the American Statistical Association to establish an annual student prize for software.

The University of Waterloo awarded John Chambers an honorary Doctor of Mathematics degree in 2004. The citation for the award began: “John M. Chambers is a name synonymous, worldwide, with statistical computing; his leadership and impact are unequalled.”

Since retiring from Bell Labs, Dr. Chambers has visited and taught at several universities, including University of Auckland, UCLA, and Stanford.

He is the author or co-author of eight books; his most recent book is “Software for Data Analysis: Programming with R” (Springer, 2008). His first book, “Computational Methods for Data Analysis” (Wiley, 1977), was the first general treatment of statistical computing. He was co-author of ``Graphical Methods for Data Analysis'', the first exposition of data visualization. Other books introduced versions of the S language and related topics, including “Statistical Models in S”.

Dr. Chambers's professional activities have included being president of the International Association for Statistical Computing and various offices in the ISI, ASA and AAAS. He is a fellow of the ASA, the IMS, and the AAAS, and an elected member of the International Statistical Institute. He is a member of the board of the R Foundation.

At Bell Labs, he served as head of the advanced software department (1981-1983) and the statistics and data analysis research department (1983-1989), before returning to full-time research in 1989. He continues active research on computing with data, with many plans for the future of computing with data.

Dr. Chambers obtained his Ph. D. in statistics in 1966 from Harvard University, after receiving a B. Sc. degree in 1963 from the University of Toronto.