In Memoriam: Gary Chamberlain 1948-2020

March 26, 2020
Gary Chamberlain

The Economics Department mourns the loss of Professor Gary Chamberlain who passed away earlier this year in late February.

Gary graduated from Harvard College, A.B., summa cum laude, in 1970, and received his Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard University in 1975. He taught at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and was a Professor of Economics at Harvard since 1987 and the Louis Berkman Professor of Economics from 2002. After Gary’s retirement in 2018, he became a Research Professor of Economics, continuing to participate in the Econometrics seminars and workshops in the department.

He was a giant in the field of Econometrics, and his influence continues to be felt through his many students, colleagues, and friends.

In Gary’s honor, his colleagues have announced that there will be a new inter-university online econometrics seminar which will be open to all those who are interested, including faculty and graduate students. Professor Isaiah Andrews, on behalf of the sponsoring group of faculty, announced, “In honor of our friend, colleague and mentor, we are naming the seminar after Gary Chamberlain (1948-2020), the Gary Chamberlain Online Seminar in Econometrics, or the ‘Chamberlain Seminar.’”

His obituary was published in The Boston Globe on March 10, 2020:

Born in Boston, MA on April 23, 1948, where he attended the Boston Latin School. He received his B.A. summa cum laude in 1970 and his Ph.D. in 1975, both from Harvard. Dr. Chamberlain taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison before returning to teach at Harvard in 1987. He was named the Louis Berkman Professor of Economics in 2002. Dr. Chamberlain's main area of research was econometrics, the branch of economics concerned with the use of mathematical methods (especially statistics) in describing economic systems. Dr. Chamberlain was particularly interested in the quantitative application of models, using data to develop theories or test existing hypotheses in economics. His research was both wide and unusually deep. In his early work, he analyzed real-world issues, such as returns to education using data on siblings, and later estimated the effects of teachers and schools on future success of students in test scores and college attendance. His profound understanding of statistics allowed him not only to find innovative applications, but also to develop original statistical methods based on multinomial approximations, which shed new light on the estimation of errors made in the use of linear regression. In recent years, he also made important contributions to decision theory and its application to such problems as allocation of funds in financial portfolios. His groundbreaking research led to many honors, including election to the National Academy of Sciences and selection as a Distinguished Fellow of the American Economic Association and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was also a Fellow of the Econometric Society, a Member of its Council from 1988 to 1993, and its Fisher-Schultz Lecturer in 2001. After his retirement from Harvard in 2017, Dr. Chamberlain was named Research Professor. Although undergoing treatment for cancer, he continued actively participating in seminars and engaging with members of his department until days before his death on February 26, 2020. He was a man of few words but significant action who was loved and admired by his colleagues, collaborators, and students. Dr. Chamberlain read extensively on a broad range of subjects and enjoyed archery, hiking, bird-watching, and astronomy. He was married to fellow economist Rachel McCulloch for almost 40 years, until her death in 2016. The couple had two children, Laura and Neil (d. 2010). He is survived by his daughter Laura Gehl, son-in-law Ryan Gehl, four grandchildren, Kevin, Nathan, Seth, and Tessa, and two nephews. A memorial service will be held in the fall.