Gary Chamberlain

Gary Chamberlain

April 23rd, 1948 February 26th, 2020

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Obituary for Gary E. Chamberlain

Gary Chamberlain was born in Boston, MA on April 23, 1948, where he attended the Boston Latin School. He received his B.A. summa cum laude in 1970 and his Ph.D. in 1975, both from Harvard. He taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison before returning to teach at Harvard in 1987. He was named the Louis Berkman Professor of Economics in 2002. Dr. Chamberlain’s main area of research was econometrics, the branch of economics concerned with the use of mathematical methods (especially statistics) in describing economic systems. Dr. Chamberlain was particularly interested in the quantitative application of models, using data to develop theories or test existing hypotheses in economics. His research was both wide and unusually deep. In his early work he analyzed real-world issues such as returns to education using data on siblings and later estimated the effects of teachers and schools on future success of students in test scores and college attendance. His profound understanding of statistics allowed him not only to find innovative applications, but also to develop original statistical methods based on multinomial approximations, which shed new light on the estimation of errors made in the use of linear regression. In recent years he also made important contributions to decision theory and its application to such problems as allocation of funds in financial portfolios. His groundbreaking research led to many honors, including election to the National Academy of Sciences and selection as a Distinguished Fellow of the American Economic Association and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was also a Fellow of the Econometric Society, a Member of its Council from 1988 to 1993, and its Fisher-Schultz Lecturer in 2001. After his retirement from Harvard in 2017, Dr. Chamberlain was named Research Professor. Although undergoing treatment for cancer, he continued actively participating in seminars and engaging with members of his department until days before his death on February 26, 2020. He was a man of few words but significant action who was loved and admired by his colleagues, collaborators, and students. Dr. Chamberlain read extensively on a broad range of subjects and enjoyed archery, hiking, bird-watching, and astronomy. He was married to fellow economist Rachel McCulloch for almost 40 years, until her death in 2016. The couple had two children, Laura and Neil (d. 2010). He is survived by his daughter Laura Gehl, son-in-law Ryan Gehl, four grandchildren, Kevin, Nathan, Seth, and Tessa, and two nephews.

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