“Astounding: statistical sampling worked”

Can one obtain a patent for a basic technique that thousands, perhaps millions of people have been using for a long, long time in many fields? Perhaps so.

Statistician Andrew Gelman’s blog tells of an actuary who was granted a US Patent for the concept of statistical sampling.

The actuary is Jay Vadiveloo [pictured here] of the University of Connecticut. His firsthand account of the what and how and geewhiz was published in the May 12, 2012 issue of The New York Times. He comments about applying the technique:  “To me, the results were astounding: statistical sampling worked.” Vadiveloo’s patent (U.S. #8126747) is titled “Method and system for evaluating insurance liabilities using stochastic modeling and sampling techniques“.

BONUS: You might enjoy reading about the new technique by digging up a copy of this old article:

“An investigation of the usefulness of statistical sampling methods in auditing,” J Neter, Journal of Accountancy, 1949.

(Thanks to Investigator Brenton R. Stone for bringing this to our attention,)