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

Jeff Ralph of the Office for National Statistics is the Royal Statistical Society William Guy Lecturer for 2016-17. This follows an open call and a highly-competitive selection process.

Following degrees in mathematics and physics and a PhD in theoretical physics, Jeff worked in the energy sector and in financial services before joining ONS in 2004. Jeff has given talks to sixth form and University students and has managed the Gloucester Branch of the Mathematical Association for the past four years organising talks on mathematics for local schools.

Jeff will be giving a small selection of RSS William Guy Lectures throughout the academic year 2017-2018, 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,

Society and Teenagers: How statistics reveal the changes in young people’s lives through the last century
Jeff Ralph, Office for National Statistics

Young people born in the year 2000 in the UK are more likely to be called Megan or Jack than Mary or John, had a life expectancy at birth of over 75 years and about half will go on to higher education. How was this different a hundred years ago? Official statistics tell the story of how our lives have developed over a century of dramatic change. Statisticians have played a key role in tracking and understanding these developments.

I will talk about the statistics behind the measurement of our daily lives. For example, how a basket of goods is used to represent the way people spend their money and what the items in the basket tell us about changes in society and technology. The talk will also discuss the measurement of poverty and its development over time into more than just an indicator of having enough food to eat.

I will include examples of what life was like for teenagers through the last century as revealed by the rich source of official statistics.

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).