Donor Endows Uncertainty
The Winton Charitable Foundation, established by David Harding (St Catharine’s, 1979), has given £3.2 million to endow an exceptional new University chair. The Winton Professorship of the Public Understanding of Risk, created for the Department of Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics, is designed to help individuals, institutions and governments understand and manage the mathematics of uncertainty.
“My time at Cambridge studying Natural Sciences showed me the importance of accuracy in empirical information and its interpretation,” said David Harding, Managing Director of Winton Capital Management, a London-based hedge fund. “It’s been a key factor in my finance career and it’s highly relevant to our awareness of the risks that affect our everyday lives.”
The new chair endowed by the Foundation is held by Professor David John Spiegelhalter, who is also a senior scientist in Biostatistics at the University’s Institute of Public Health. Professor Spiegelhalter is a widely regarded expert in risk assessment and the application of probability in fields including artificial intelligence, clinical trials and surgical intervention. His risk analysis into a series of deaths during operations at Great Ormond Street Hospital led him to help with the high-profile inquiry into the Bristol Royal Infirmary and, most notably, to the inquiry into the mass-murderer Harold Shipman.
“The key word in my new title is ‘risk’,” Professor Spiegelhalter said, “but I’d like to broaden the remit to include all forms of uncertainty and how it affects the issues relevant to us, from MRSA and C. difficile in hospitals, to league tables, even to the decisions we make about how much to drink and whether to buy lottery tickets or premium bonds.” In his role as Winton Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk, Spiegelhalter plans to create a body of web resources for the public and experts alike, with emphasis on engaging and challenging young people.
“Cambridge has always been about excellence and the quest for truth and clarity across a broad range of experience,” commented David Harding. “Learning should and must be without limits. Professor Spiegelhalter, in his new role, will be enabling all of us to refine our thinking and decision-making within the ever-present context of risk and uncertainty.”
Added: 5 October 2007