Howard Wainer

Howard Wainer
Howard Wainer, 2011
Born (1943-10-26) October 26, 1943
Brooklyn, New York
Nationality American
Fields Statistics
Institutions University of Pennsylvania
University of Chicago
Alma mater Princeton University
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Doctoral advisor Harold Gulliksen
Known for Unit-weighted regression

Howard Wainer (born 1943) is an American statistician, past Principal Research Scientist at the Educational Testing Service, adjunct Professor of Statistics at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and author, known for his contributions in the fields of statistics, psychometrics, and statistical graphics.


Early life

Howard Wainer was born Howard Charles Goldhaber in Brooklyn, New York on October 26, 1943. In 1948 his father Meyer Goldhaber, an anatomist by education and a dentist by profession, died of complications from a bleeding ulcer at the age of 35. Howard, his brother and his mother moved in with his mother's parents. After two years his mother married Sam Wainer, a local businessman, and the family relocated to Long Island. Howard was formally adopted by his mother's new husband and took the surname Wainer.[1]


Early on Wainer showed an aptitude for science and mathematics. In 1960, at the end of his junior year in high school, he was accepted into a National Science Foundation honors program at Columbia University. He spent two hours traveling on subway and bus each way to and from Columbia, learning about Markov chains and number theory in the morning and working on the IBM 650 computer in the afternoon.[1]

Wainer's experiences at Columbia motivated him to continue his studies along similar lines. He matriculated at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1961 to study mathematics. It was at R.P.I. that Wainer first encountered psychometrics. There, Professor George Boguslavsky was so impressed with his abilities and enthusiasm that he recommended Wainer for a Psychometric Fellowship at Princeton University under Harold Gulliksen.[2] Wainer received his B.S. from R.P.I. in mathematics in 1965 and a Ph.D. from Princeton in psychometrics in 1968.[3]


Howard Wainer began his teaching career at Temple University in 1968, staying on as an Assistant Professor until 1970.[4] After Temple he taught at the University of Chicago, as a member of the Committee on Methodology in the department of Behavioral Sciences until 1977.[5] Wainer then moved to Washington DC to join the Bureau of Social Science Research, a nonprofit organization that focused on policy research. During his time in DC Wainer also joined with Richard Roistacher and Barbara Noble in founding Multiple Technical Services, a small firm that provided statistical and computational advice to the DC research community. In 1980 he moved to Princeton NJ to become a Principal Research Scientist at the Educational Testing Service, a position he held for 21 years. In 2001 he assumed his current position as Distinguished Research Scientist at the National Board of Medical Examiners. Wainer is also an adjunct Professor of Statistics at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.[3]

Awards and honors

Howard Wainer is the recipient of numerous awards and honors: He is a Fellow of the American Statistical Association and the American Educational Research Association. He was given a Career Achievement Award for Contributions to Educational Measurement by the National Council on Measurement in Education in 2007 and the Samuel J. Messick Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions from Division 5 of the American Psychological Association in 2009. His work on testlets was recognized when he received the Award for Scientific Contribution to a Field of Educational Measurement from the National Council on Measurement in Education in 2006. His book Graphic Discovery was named by Choice as the “Best Math book of 2005”. He was a Distinguished Visiting Lecturer at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the University of Twente, Enschede, The Netherlands, and the American College Testing organization. He also received the Educational Testing Service’s Senior Scientist Award in 1990.

Current status

Howard Wainer lives with his wife, Linda Steinberg, in Pennington, New Jersey.


Contributions to statistics

Since 1974 when he published his first article on statistical graphics, an empirical verification of the efficacy of the suspended Rootogram, Howard Wainer has been a tireless advocate for the efficacy of graphics for communicating quantitative phenomena. He is one of the principals responsible for the renewed importance of graphics in statistics. In addition to the three books he authored on graphical methods: Picturing the Uncertain World,[6] Graphic Discovery[7] and Visual Revelations[8] he was also responsible for the English translation of two of the masterworks in the field by the French semiologist Jacques Bertin.[9][10]

Wainer’s approach to the study of graphics has always shown a deep respect for the work of those who had preceded him. In 2007 he arranged for the publication of replica volumes of William Playfair's Atlas as well as his Statistical Breviary, the first books on the subject. In them he collaborated with Ian Spence on an extended introduction to Playfair and a biography of him.[11]

Wainer has done extensive work on problems in psychometrics. He has authored, co-authored or edited the principal texts in five of the major areas of the subject: test scoring,[12] test validity,[13] computerized adaptive testing,[14] test fairness,[15] and, most recently, on a theory of testlets.[16]

Wainer has published more than 350 articles, chapters and books. His latest book Uneducated Guesses[17] debunks a number of currently popular but deeply flawed ideas on educational policy. Wainer has, for the past 20 years, written the popular column “Visual Revelations” for Chance magazine. Wainer edited the Journal of Educational and Behavioral Statistics from 2002 through 2004 as well as being an associate editor of a handful of statistical and psychometric journals. He is currently on the Board of Editors of Significance, the new joint publication of the American Statistical Association and the Royal Statistical Society.

He has also served on the front lines of educational practice by working for many years as a consultant for teachers’ unions, with a five-year hiatus when he served on the Princeton Board of Education. He has also served, in many capacities, as a consultant and advisor to government and industry.

Selected Publications

See References for other publications

See also


  1. 1 2 "Profiles in Research" (PDF). Journal of Educational and Behavioral Statistics. 30 (4): 466. December 21, 2005.
  2. J. Ed, Behav. Stats., p. 468
  3. 1 2 J. Ed, Behav. Stats., p. 465
  4. J. Ed, Behav. Stats., p. 471
  5. J. Ed, Behav. Stats., p. 472
  6. Wainer, Howard (2009). Picturing the Uncertain World: How to Understand, Communicate and Control Uncertainty through Graphical Display. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0691152675.
  7. Wainer, Howard (2005). Graphic Discovery: A Trout in the Milk and Other Visual Adventures. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0521855543.
  8. Wainer, Howard (1997). Visual Revelations: Graphical Tales of Fate and Deception from Napoleon Bonaparte to Ross Perot. ((second edition, Hillsdale, N. J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2000 ed.). New York: Copernicus Books.
  9. Bertin, Jacques (1983). Semiology of Graphics. Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press.
  10. Bertin, Jacques (1981). Graphics and Graphic Information Processing. Elmsford, N. Y.: Walter de Gruyter.
  11. William Playfair (2007). Howard Wainer and Ian Spence, eds. The Commercial and Political Atlas, Representing, by means of Stained Copper-Plate Charts, The Progress of the Commerce, Revenues, Expenditure, and Debts of England, during the whole of the Eighteenth Century, and The Statistical Breviary; Shewing on a Principle entirely new, the resources of every state and kingdom in Europe; illustrated with Stained Copper-Plate Charts, representing the physical powers of each distinct nation with ease and perspicuity both. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  12. Wainer, Howard (2001). Test Scoring. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. ISBN 0805837663.
  13. Wainer, Howard (1988). Test Validity. Hillsdale, N. J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  14. Computerized Adaptive Testing
  15. Wainer, Howard (1993). Differential Item Functioning. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  16. Wainer, Howard (2007). Testlet Response Theory and its Applications. New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 052168126X.
  17. Wainer, Howard (2011). Uneducated Guesses: Using Evidence to Uncover Misguided Education Policies. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0691149283.
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