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AT&T Labs - Research

Our History

AT&T has a long history in statistics, dating back to Shewhart's invention of control charts in 1924 and Dodge and Romig's development of double-sampling inspection plans in the 1930's. One of Shewhart's interests was what is now called the robustness of statistical techniques.


After World War II, John Tukey ( Memories of John Tukey ) embarked on his dual career at AT&T Bell Labs and Princeton University, carrying out his pioneering work in spectrum analysis, the Fast Fourier Transform, multiple comparisons, exploratory data analysis, and a host of other topics in statistics. The first person hired as a statistical researcher (in 1952) was M.E.Terry.


Starting in 1959 the Statistics Research departments were greatly expanded. Among the early recruits were

M.B.Wilk , R.Gnanadesikan , and

C.L.Mallows . The list of distinguished visitors includes

D.R.Brillinger, F.J.Anscombe, and D.R.Cox .

In 1984, with the government imposed break-up of the Bell System, about 1/3 of the group went to Bellcore. In the years following, there were more self-imposed splits. In 1997, AT&T spun off Lucent Technologies as a maker of equipment and technology. Some of those functions have since been spun off into other companies: Avaya and Agere. Lucent kept rights to the Bell Labs name. The part that retained the AT&T brand is the telecommunications carrier, and network designer and operator.

During these years, our group changed the field of statistical computing with the development of the S programming language by John Chambers , Rick Becker , and Allan Wilks : which became licensed as S-Plus and ultimately spawned the open source statistical language R. S/S-Plus/R has become the de-facto statistical programming language for many diverse disciplines and its flexibility, robustness and ease of use is a credit to its designers.

Another success story was in fraud detection, where a flurry of projects spearheaded by Daryl Pregibon established AT&T as the industry leader in fraud modelling using statistical profiling. Through this work, our department played a pioneering role in the explosion of the data mining field in the late 90's and early '00s.

A guiding principle in all the work at AT&T Research has been the need to keep theory and practice in touch with reality. A common recurring theme has been an emphasis on graphical methods of display and analysis of data, and continues on in our work on data mining, data visualization, and interactive data analysis.

The demand for statistics at AT&T Labs is strong. Our tradition of doing world-class, fundamental research in statistics goes back to people like Walter Shewhart and John Tukey. AT&T Labs wants to continue this tradition by maintaining a strong research presence in statistics.