Efron, the Max H. Stein Professor and Professor of Statistics and of Health Research and Policy, was cited "for his contributions to theoretical and applied statistics, especially the bootstrap sampling technique; for his extraordinary geometric insight into nonlinear statistical problems; and for applications in medicine, physics and astronomy."
He invented the bootstrap method, a general computer-based way of attaching plus-or-minus values to a statistical estimate (as in, for example, "57 percent of the public plus or minus 3 percent are in favor of subsidizing public utilities"). His focus on methodologies useful in diverse fields has helped make Stanford's Department of Statistics America's top-ranked department in the discipline.
Efron, 69, is one of the world's most often-cited mathematical scientists. He earned his doctorate in statistics from Stanford in 1964 and joined the Stanford faculty in 1965. Winner of a 1983 MacArthur Prize, he has served as president of the American Statistical Association and of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics.
The other 2005 National Medal of Science laureates are Jan D. Achenbach (Northwestern University), Ralph A. Alpher (Dudley Observatory), Anthony S. Fauci (National Institutes of Health), Tobin J. Marks (Northwestern University), Lonnie G. Thompson (Ohio State University) and Torsten N. Wiesel (Rockefeller University).
"The National Medal of Science honors individuals for pioneering scientific research in a range of fields, including physical, biological, mathematical, social, behavioral and engineering sciences, that enhances our understanding of the world and leads to innovations and technologies that give the United States its global economic edge," said a White House statement.