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 2017-18

The Royal Statistical Society William Guy Lecturer 2017-2018 is Jeff Ralph

The RSS William Guy Lecturer 2016 – 2017

Christl Donnelly, Professor of Statistical Epidemiology, Imperial College London, is the Royal Statistical Society William Guy Lecturer for 2016-17. This follows an open call and a highly-competitive selection process.

Professor Donnelly studies the spread and control of infectious diseases to ensure that the strategies used to combat and control outbreaks of infection are as effective as they possibly can be. She has given talks and interactive presentations at schools and the Big Bang Fair, and public lectures at the University of Bath, Cambridge Science Festival and elsewhere.

Professor Donnelly will be giving a small selection of RSS William Guy Lectures on “Statistics and epidemiology: How numbers help control diseases” throughout the academic year 2016-17, 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,

Statistics and epidemiology: How numbers help control diseases
Christl Donnelly, Professor of Statistical Epidemiology, Imperial College London

The Ebola and Zika epidemics have brought infectious disease outbreaks and their control into everyone’s consciousness. The media images are of doctors and nurses in full body protection treating patients. But there are also important roles for statisticians and epidemiologists analysing the data collected about the patients, including when they got sick, who they contacted and where they live.

I explain epidemic growth – how diseases spread if each person infects two others, for example. I explain why Ebola is seen by many as a bigger global threat than malaria, despite the fact that many more people die of malaria each year. I also explain why some diseases are easier to control than others (comparing SARS to influenza).

The talk will be filled with examples of diseases I have worked on including: BSE/vCJD, bovine TB, foot-and-mouth disease, SARS, influenza, dengue, MERS, Ebola and Zika.

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).