MacArthur Fellows Program

Persi Diaconis

Statistician | Class of 1982

Stanford, California
37 at time of award
Published August 1, 1982

Persi Diaconis is a mathematical statistician who thinks probabilistically about problems from philosophy to group theory.

His work concentrates on the interaction of symmetry and randomness, for which he has developed the tools of subjective probability and Bayesian statistics.  Through his analyses of randomness and its inherent substantial biases, such as the height, speed and angle at which a coin is flipped, Diaconis illuminates issues in the foundations of mathematics and computation.  He contributes to applied data analysis and computer graphics, attempting to make mathematical sense out of the techniques suggested by applied work.  His work on analyzing card tricks and the investigation of parapsychology is motivated by the ten years he spent as a professional magician.

Beginning in 1974, Diaconis taught at Stanford and Harvard Universities before becoming the George Vasmer Leverett Professor of Mathematics at Harvard University (1987-1997) and the David Duncan Professor at Cornell University (1996-1998).  He is the Mary V. Sunseri Professor of Statistics and Mathematics at Stanford University.

Diaconis received a B.S. (1971) from the City College of New York and an M.A. (1972) and a Ph.D. (1974 from Harvard University.

Last updated January 1, 2005.

Select News Coverage of Persi Diaconis
September 14, 2016
"How Do You Know if Dice Are Really Fair? Math."
Popular Mechanics
Persi Diaconis , 1982 MacArthur Fellow
April 14, 2015
"For Persi Diaconis’ Next Magic Trick …"
Quanta Magazine
Persi Diaconis , 1982 MacArthur Fellow
January 30, 2015
"How Random Is a Coin Toss? - Numberphile"
Persi Diaconis , 1982 MacArthur Fellow
October 16, 2011
"The Magical Mind of Persi Diaconis"
The Chronicle of Higher Education
Persi Diaconis , 1982 MacArthur Fellow
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