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Walter T. Federer, father of Cornell's statistics department, dies at 92

Cornell Professor Emeritus of Biological Statistics and Computational Biology Walter T. Federer, of Ithaca, died April 14 at the Cayuga Medical Center. He was 92.

Federer founded Cornell's Biometrics Unit in the Department of Plant Breeding in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in 1948 soon after he joined the Cornell faculty, and he served as its director for 33 years. The unit was later renamed the Department of Biometrics, and since 2001, has been called the Department of Biological Statistics and Computational Biology.

He was named a Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor of Statistics in 1978, a position he held until his retirement in 1986, when he assumed emeritus status.

Born Aug. 23, 1915, in Cheyenne, Wyo., Federer grew up in Cheyenne where his parents were homesteaders. After high school, he was a rancher and professional rodeo rider before earning his B.S. in agronomy at Colorado State University (1939), M.S. in plant breeding at Kansas State University (1941) and Ph.D. in mathematical statistics at Iowa State University (1948).

Over the years, Federer served as president of the Eastern North American Region of the International Biometric Society, chairman and executive secretary of the Committee of Presidents of Statistical Societies and in editorial positions for several statistical journals. He was a member of many national, international, university and government panels and boards and a consultant for several international research stations.

Federer is survived by his wife, Edna Hammond Federer, her children and extended family.

Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m., Sunday, April 20, at the Bethel Grove Bible Church, 1763 Slaterville Road, Ithaca. Donations in Federer's memory can be made to the Fellowship Fund of the church.

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