Shisong Mao

Quick Info

August 1936
Chao Xian, (now Chaohu, Anhui Province), China
16 January 2023
Shanghai, China

Shisong Mao was a Chinese mathematical statistician who was a pioneer in Chinese Mathematical Statistics especially in Statistics education.


Shisong Mao was born in Chao Xian (now Chaohu of Anhui Province) in China. He began studying mathematics at East China Normal University in Shanghai in 1954 and continued to work there after graduating in 1958. Initially, he and several other young people formed a study group to teach themselves Probability and Mathematical Statistics. However, they found it very difficult to explore and fill the gap in knowledge of the subject at that time in China. Professor Mao has described that experience [1]:-
It was ever so challenging! We always argued with each other intensely just over a math question!
Professor Mao was dedicated to statistics throughout his life. He established one of the first three Statistics majors, and also the first Mathematical Statistics department in the whole country in East China Normal University in 1983 and 1984. He wrote and edited more than ten professional textbooks for statistics education in Chinese, and was involved in over thirty others. The 2004 textbook, Probability and Mathematical Statistics, written and edited by Shisong Mao, Yiming Cheng and Xiaolong Pu, is one of the most influential undergraduate textbooks in China. Professor Mao was hired as a tenured professor of East China Normal University in December 2002. He devoted himself to education, and was sincerely loved by students and generally respected by colleagues at home and abroad, winning the Shanghai Yucai Award and the BaoGang Excellent Teacher Award. He was particularly committed to the application of mathematical statistics in the field of quality management. His teaching materials for engineers and training in the field of quality science won the National Excellent Quality Management Worker and the National Quality Management Outstanding Contribution Award.

His wife Mrs Mao commented [1]:-
He would like to keep talking about statistics, even during the time when he was suffering from illness. Statistics was his life!
Professor Mao studied outside China three times:
09/1961-07/1963 Moscow State University, Soviet Union
12/1984-03/1986 visiting University of Maryland and University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA
10/1991-03/1992 visiting Canada

When in Moscow Mao studied Information Theory, mainly working on mathematical problems in telecommunications. During this time, he published his first paper Probability and the Application in Russian. After returning to work in East China Normal University, he proposed applying information theory to cryptology communication. However, strong confidentiality concerns prevented him from trying.

In the spring of 1965 Mao took his students to Luoyang Bearing Research Institute (in Henan Province). Based on the real data of bearing life, they studied the random defects of bearings and methods of estimating life distribution. Perhaps this experience initiated Mao's joy in applying statistics to serve society. He said [1]:-
It is difficult to describe in words the sense of accomplishment that comes from reducing a lot of messy materials and summing them up in a law.
From about 1975, Mao promoted and applied further reliability methods. With several collaborators, he participated in the formulation of product reliability standards led by the Fourth Ministry of Machinery (later renamed the Ministry of Electronics Industry). They first cooperated to complete the Standard for Data Processing Method of Life Test and Accelerated Life Test (the basis of national standard GB/T2689-1981). This won the first prize of scientific and technological achievements of the Fourth Ministry of Machinery , and also won the major technical improvement achievements of the National Defense Science and Technology Commission second prize . Later, in view of the long life-test period and high cost of color TV sets and considering the long-term accumulated test data, Mao proposed using a Bayesian method, forming the Bayesian Method for Life Test of Color Receivers (the basis of the national standard GB/T 9382-1988). This won the first prize of scientific and technological progress of the Ministry of Electronics Industry. In 1992, the The Normal Distribution Interval Estimation Coefficient Table that Mao participated in won the second prize of the Science and Technology Progress Award of the Ministry of Aeronautics and Space .

Mao, together with other teachers and industrial engineers, held statistical application seminars at Professor Zongshu Wei's home every three weeks on Sunday from 1988 to 1993. They mainly discussed practical problems encountered by factory personnel, such as the determination of sample size, and they also introduced some emerging statistical methods. This seminar built bridges between engineers and teachers, and communicated and promoted the application of statistics. Recalling these experiences, Professor Mao once said emotionally [1] [2] [4]:-
Mathematical statistics cannot be done behind closed doors. Only when it is truly applied in the field of production practice can its value be reflected, and mathematical statistics really take root in China.
On 29th December in 1984, the first Department of Mathematical Statistics in China was established in East China Normal University. Mao was appointed as the first department head in 1986 on his return from an extended study trip in the USA.

Under the leadership of Professor Mao, the whole department worked together to provide excellent training and promote scientific research. They achieved outstanding academic achievements in the fields of stochastic process, multivariate analysis, reliability statistics, and applied statistics, at the cutting edge of research in China. In 1987, Mathematical Statistics of East China Normal University was identified as a key subject of higher education by the Ministry of Education in China.

Mao thought it was not appropriate to use directly or translated foreign textbooks as they were relatively difficult and too theoretical. Therefore, he invited experts from various universities to co-author a set of Mathematical Statistics Series, which combined knowledge of the Chinese teaching context with ideas from the foreign teaching materials to express the principles and applications of statistical methods in plain language. Eight textbooks have been published since 1986: Mathematical Statistics (Shisong Mao, Jinglong Wang), Introduction to Stochastic Processes (Shengwu He), Regression Analysis (Jixiang Zhou), Experimental Design (Wanzhong Wang), Nonparametric Statistics (Xiru Chen, Genxiang Chai), Practical Multivariate Statistical Analysis (Kaitai Fang), Time Series Analysis (Hongzhi An), Basic Statistical Methods Course (Quan Fu, Beihua Hu). The publication of this set of textbooks was welcomed by colleges and universities and solved their immediate needs.

Professor Mao had been dedicated to writing and editing tutorial materials for students his whole life. He once said [1]:-
I suffered from the absence of books to read when I first got to know Probability. I studied for two years in China and two years in the Soviet Union; it just helped me to understand the basics of probability theory. I hope the Chinese younger generation does not take this tortuous road again, so I want to tell Chinese young people my understanding of Probability Theory and Mathematical Statistics, so they can acquire great command of the basics of this subject in a short period of time, which may take about six months to one year.

References (show)

  1. Y Li, The life of poem, the spirit of pinales. To Memorise Professor Shisong Mao. 2023.
  2. T Tang, Shisong Mao: Pioneer of Mathematical Statistics in China. Included in Liwa Memory: Oral Records of East China Normal University (Second Series)" . 2016.
  3. Z Chen et al, Probability Theory Teaching and Research Group before the Cultural Revolution. Included in Past Events and Random Thoughts sponsored by the Mathematics Branch of the Old Professors Association of East China Normal University. 2020.
  4. School of Statistics, East China Normal University. Oral Records of Professor Shisong Mao. Internal Materials. 2018.
  5. M Cheng, S Mao, Z Wei, Included in the fifth volume of Biography of Modern Chinese Mathematicians. 2002.
  6. S Mao, An old man in the field of probability and statistics -- Professor Zongshu Wei. Included in Master Soul: Famous Teachers of the Older Generation of East China Normal University compiled by the East China Normal University Association of Old Professors. 2011 .
  7. S Mao, A founder of mathematical statistics in my country -- Professor Zongshu Wei. Advanced Mathematics Research, 2017.
  8. S Mao, Standing at Thirty-Establishment and Development of Statistics Major. Included in Context: Review of East China Normal University's Discipline Construction compiled by East China Normal University Association of Senior Professors. 2017.
  9. Z Wang. Only hard work can lead to success -- Interview with Professor Mao Shisong. Internal materials. 2020.
  10. Q Yan, "Data Life". Quality and Standardization. 2014.
  11. L Zhu, The Remarkable Effects of "Cultivating People through Morality -- Professor Shisong Mao's Mathematics and Statistics Textbook Construction and Talent Training. Internal Materials. 2023.

Additional Resources (show)

Other websites about Shisong Mao:

  1. zbMATH entry

Written by Kairui Li, University of St Andrews
Last Update May 2023