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Cedric Austen Bardell Smith, 1917-2002.

University College London Library Special Collections. Reference code: GB 0103 C.A.B. Smith

Link to Catalogue of the papers and correspondence of Cedric Austen Bardell Smith by T.E. Powell and P. Harper

Outline of career

Cedric Austen Bardell Smith was born in Leicester on 5 February 1917. He was educated at Wyggeston Boys School and University College School London. In 1935, having failed his Higher School Certificate, he was awarded an exhibition to Trinity College Cambridge. He graduated in the Mathematical Tripos, with a First in Part II and a Distinction in Part III. Following graduation Smith began postgraduate research, taking his Ph.D. in 1942.

While a student at Cambridge, Smith became close friends with three other mathematics students at Trinity College, R.L. Brooks, A.H. Stone and W.T. Tutte. Together they tackled a number of problems in the mathematical field of Combinatoric and devised an imaginary mathematician, Blanche Descartes, under which name to publish their work. The group devised the squared square, a square that is divided into a number of smaller squares, no two of which are the same size. Publications under the name of Blanch Descartes or F. de Carteblanche continued to appear into the 1980s. The group also published more mainstream articles under their own names, the final one being R.L. Brooks, C.A.B. Smith, A.H. Stone and W.T. Tutte, Determinants and current flows in electrical networks, Discrete Math. vol. 100 (1992).

During the Second World War, as a Quaker, Smith joined the Friends Relief Service. He worked as a Porter at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge. Smith's pacifist views saw him develop an interest in peace studies. Among other responsibilities for the Society of Friends, he was a member of the Quaker Peace Studies Trust which established the chair of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford. Smith was also a founder member (and Chairman) of the Conflict Research Society.

In 1946 he was appointed Assistant Lecturer at the Galton Laboratory at University College London. He remained at UCL for the rest of his career, becoming successively Lecturer and Reader, before appointment as Weldon Professor of Biometrics in 1964. On his arrival at UCL Smith was influenced by J.B.S. Haldane, who introduced him to problems of linkage in human genetics in which field he was able to bring his skills as a statistician to bear.

At the Galton Laboratory Smith was to make many significant contributions to genetics. They were set out by N.E. Morton in his obituary in the International Statistical Institute Newsletter Newsletter (vol. 26, no. 2, 2002) as follows:

Among Smith's achievements is the most powerful test for mimic loci, which produce what appears to be the same disease but are located in different chromosome regions and act in different ways. With James Renwick he pioneered sex-specific analysis based on the observation that chromosomes recombine at different points in male and female meiosis. Smith's 1953 paper introduced autozygosity mapping based on co-inheritance of a rare disease gene and close markers in relatives. The method lay fallow for thirty years, waiting for the molecular markers that have made it invaluable. Smith's best ideas were incorporated into genetic mapping whereby hundreds of disease genes were localised as a necessary first step to sequencing, characterisation, and attempts to ameliorate their effects. This has been a precious tool for clinical genetics and the impetus for the Human Genome Project.

Although these contributions are best known, they are only a part of Smith's scholarship. He contributed to many of the classical topics in statistical genetics, including segregation ratios in family data, kinship, population structure, assortative mating, genetic correlation, and estimation of gene frequencies. The latter had wide application, but Smith's role has not been recognised by mathematicians. With Ceppellini and Siniscalco he introduced the method of gene counting in 1955. It gives maximum likelihood estimates that converge more slowly but more reliably than methods requiring an information matrix. The method is now used to advantage for many missing-data problems in which some of the observations are mixtures of discrete probabilities.

Smith was elected a Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society in 1945. He was a member of the Genetical Society (serving as Treasurer), the Biometric Society (British Region), serving as President 1971-1972, and the International Statistical Institute. He died in 2002.

Description of collection

Dates of creation of material: 1934-2003. Extent: 6 boxes, ca 175 items

The surviving archival record, which covers the period 1934 - 2003, is scanty both in terms of extent and coverage. There is little documentation of Smith's genetics research (apart from published papers), correspondence with colleagues, membership of professional societies, attendance at conferences etc. It is somewhat fuller in its coverage of mathematical work, although even here it is weighted towards his less mainstream interests.

Biographical material includes obituaries and tributes. There is a copy of Smith's inaugural lecture as Weldon Professor, Life, Form, and Number. The largest component is concerned with Smithÿs interests in peace studies, including his articles on the subject published in The Friend.

Publications records comprise the largest component of the archive and make up over half of the material. It includes a good, though not comprehensive, set of Smith's publications, nearly entirely in the form of offprints from 1934 to a posthumous paper published in 2003. There are a number of book reviews and the draft of an unpublished book on genetics. There is also a full record of Smith's co-editorship of Colson News, a small circulation journal devoted to two-way numbers. Smith's talks and lectures, are chiefly sets of transparencies to illustrate presentations. Most of these sets are undated, with no indication of occasion, audience or place of lecture. Furthermore many are highly miscellaneous in content, and may include transparencies on astrology, linguistics and place-names alongside others on genetics and statistical analysis. Research records are slight and fragmentary. Virtually nothing of Smith's research as a geneticist and statistician remains and what remains are the three random survivals found in the Galton Laboratory. The two main components relate to computer calculations related to statistical studies by M. Gauquelin on astrology, and to the analysis of language. Likewise very little of Smith's correspondence survives.