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professor of statistics at the University of Glasgow.

I work in two fields - statistical theory and medical statistics. I will choose one application from the latter.

The greatest innovation in the field of medical statistics is the development of the randomised clinical trial (RCT), a development which, like most important scientific innovations, emerged gradually. However, the key step was Austin Bradford Hill’s use of randomisation and control in the Medical Research Council trial of streptomycin in tuberculosis published in the British Medical Journal in 1948. In a field where variability in outcome is considerable, fair comparison is the key to level-headed evaluation. Sorting the therapeutic chaff from the wheat is a difficult business and the RCT is a vital tool in making it easier.