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Obituaries in the News

July 28, 2000

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) _ John W. Tukey, a Princeton University statistician credited with coining the word ``software,″ died here Wednesday. He was 85.

The cause of death was a heart attack after a short illness, said his sister-in-law, Phyllis Anscombe.

As a professor at Princeton and researcher for AT&T’s Bell Labs, Tukey developed important theories about how to analyze and present data clearly.

But his most widely recognized contribution is his introduction of the term ``software″ to describe the programs used to run early computers. It first appeared in a 1958 article he wrote in the journal American Mathematical Monthly.

Tukey also is credited with coining the term ``bit″ _ an abbreviation of ``binary digit,″ which describes the 1′s and 0′s that are the foundation of computer programs.

Born in New Bedford, Mass., Tukey graduated from Brown University in 1936 with a chemistry degree. Over the next three years he earned a graduate degree in chemistry from Brown and two in mathematics from Princeton. He became a full professor at the age of 35, and in 1965 became founding chairman of the university’s statistics department.

Tukey worked as a consultant to corporations, including the Educational Testing Service, Xerox and Merck. From 1960 to 1980, he helped design polls that the NBC television network used in its election coverage.

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