RSS William Guy Lecture

The RSS William Guy Lecturer is a prestigious volunteer role, and is intended to recognise Fellows with a successful track record in undertaking school outreach activities.

We give the RSS William Guy Lecturer support to deliver the RSS William Guy Lecture to school students in the UK each academic year. Past lecturers include David Spiegelhalter, Peter Holmes, Jennifer Rogers and Neil Sheldon. Drawn from industry, education and academia, lecturers have spoken on a wide variety of topics.

The RSS William Guy Lecturer 2018-19

Lee Fawcett of Newcastle University is the Royal Statistical Society William Guy Lecturer for 2018-19. This follows an open call and a highly-competitive selection process.

Lee Fawcett is a lecturer in Statistics in the School of Mathematics, Statistics & Physics at Newcastle University. His research interests include innovative methods for teaching statistics, extreme value theory, and Bayesian approaches to road safety hotspot prediction. Lee has given many interactive talks to students with an interest in Statistics and its applications, from children in Year 6 to A level students.

Lee will be giving a small selection of RSS William Guy Lectures throughout the academic year 2018-2019, supported by the RSS. Priority booking is given to e-teacher members and RSS local groups, especially for lectures that will be open to multiple schools in a geographic location. For details, contact Scott Keir, head of education and statistical literacy, at

The Storm of the Century! Using data to anticipate extreme climate events
Lee Fawcett, Newcastle University

Can we use data to estimate the probability of an event more extreme than we have observed before? When Hurricane Katrina made landfall at Grand Isle Louisiana, it brought storm tides exceeding 14 feet. The maximum hourly storm tide ever observed at this location, before Katrina, was just over 13 feet. So how could Katrina’s storm tide have ever been anticipated? And why was Katrina dubbed “The Storm of the Century”? We aim to answer both of these questions, and more.

Starting with a demonstration of the flaws of simple approaches, we will explore together, using pencil-and-paper and a web-based app, how well we can fit an extreme value model to annual maximum storm tides at Grand Isle. The talk is suitable for a range of secondary school students from ages 12 to 18, and will be adjusted appropriately.

William Guy lecturer speaker pool

Several past lecturers are willing to deliver their lecture on request, by mutual arrangement – download a list of abstracts with full details. To contact any of the speakers, email Scott Keir, head of education and statistical literacy,, who will relay your request.

History of the lecture

William Augustus Guy (1810-1885) was one of the early medical statisticians. He was extremely eminent in the field. He was closely associated with the Society for many years, including being president 1873-1875. His portrait hangs in our office. The Guy medals, awarded to distinguished statisticians for important work, testify to his memory. A more recent innovation is the William Guy Lecture.

One of our former honorary secretaries, Sidney Rosenbaum, discovered that Guy was a pupil at his old school, Christ’s Hospital, now located near Horsham. Sidney arranged discussions that led to the setting up of a Guy Lecture. The first Guy Lecture was given by Adrian Smith on 29 April 1999 – ‘Statistics and statisticians: the good guy’s answer to lying figures and figuring liars’. Adrian Bowman gave the second lecture on 19 May 2000 – ‘A world of difference: a rough guide to why statisticians count’.

Adrian Bowman’s lecture was given to many other sixth form audiences. This encouraged us to widen the scope of the Guy Lecture to be available to any school or college. We tended to refer to the lecture as the RSS Schools Lecture with the title Guy Lecturer was retained for each year’s lecturer.

In 2016, following a review of the programme by our Education Committee, the name was revised to the William Guy Lecturer, delivering the William Guy Lecture.

A full list of previous recipients is available to download (pdf).