C. Frederick Mosteller, a distinguished Harvard University statistician whose work often focused on precollegiate education, died July 23 in Falls Church, Va. He was 89.
Over his long career in academia, Mr. Mosteller applied his mathematical expertise to subjects ranging from academic achievement to medicine to baseball. With Daniel Patrick Moynihan, he participated in an influential 1966-67 series of Harvard seminars that re-examined the findings of the massive federal study on educational disparities known as the Coleman Report. The 1972 book out of the seminar that Mr. Mosteller and Mr. Moynihan co-edited, On Equality of Educational Opportunity, helped fuel debates that endure today over the achievement of poor and minority students. (“Race Report’s Influence Felt 40 Years Later,” June 21, 2006.)
More recently, in 1995, Mr. Mosteller’s support for a Tennessee study suggesting that students learned more in smaller classes inspired the eventual creation of a federal grant program aimed at reducing class sizes in the primary grades. In the 1950s, Mr. Mosteller led an effort to bring the teaching of statistics to American high schools, according to Stephen E. Fienberg, a former student of his who is now a statistics professor at Carnegie-Mellon University.
A version of this article appeared in the August 09, 2006 edition of Education Week