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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Hannan, Edward James (Ted) (1921–1994)

by Selwyn Cornish

This article was published online in 2018

Edward James Hannan (1921–1994), statistician and econometrician, was born on 29 January 1921 in Melbourne, twin child of James Thomas Hannan, commercial artist, and his wife Margaret Josephine, née McEwan. Educated at St Finton’s and Xavier colleges, Ted completed the Leaving certificate in 1937, before joining the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) as a clerk. In November 1939, shortly after World War II broke out, he enlisted in the Citizen Military Forces.  Called up for full-time duty on 31 July 1941, he served in Australia with the 6th Battalion. Having joined the Australian Imperial Force in October 1942, he was commissioned as a lieutenant in May 1943. From January to June 1945 he was a platoon commander with the 35th Battalion in New Guinea. He transferred to the Reserve of Officers on 15 February 1946 in Australia, and enrolled at the University of Melbourne (BCom, 1949). On 1 March 1949, at St Peter’s Catholic Church, Toorak, he married Irene Dorothy Eleanor Troth, a typist.

Joining the economic department of the CBA, Sydney, Hannan worked principally as a statistician, reformulating the bank’s import price index and building a model of the Australian economy. H. C. Coombs, the bank’s governor, arranged for him to spend 1953 at the Australian National University, Canberra, under the guidance of Trevor Swan, the professor of economics. P. A. P. Moran, head of the department of statistics, encouraged Hannan to apply for a fellowship; in 1956 he received a PhD for his thesis, ‘The Theory and Application of Stochastic Processes.’ He retained his fellowship until being appointed (1959) professor of statistics at Canberra University College, just before its amalgamation with the ANU. A Fulbright award (1959–60) took him to the University of North Carolina where he completed his first book, Time Series Analysis (1960).

As well as conducting research, Hannan was expected to teach and engage in the administration of his department and faculty. Although research was his forte, he was a good teacher even though—as Moran noted—he had a ‘tendency (of which he is well aware) to go too fast for his audience’ (ANUA 19/39/3977 (1)). In 1971 he was appointed to a second chair that was created in Moran’s department. By then he had an international reputation in the fields of time series analysis, probability theory, and econometrics, being regarded by Marc Nerlove, professor of economics at Yale, as ‘one of the most distinguished and eminent mathematical statisticians in the world’ (ANUA 19/39/3977 (1)).

Elected to fellowships of the Econometric Society (1967), the Australian Academy of Science (1979), and the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia (1980), Hannan was an honorary fellow of the Royal Statistical Society, and a member of the International Statistical Institute (1967). He was awarded the Lyle medal (1979) of the Australian Academy of Science and the Pitman medal (1986) of the Statistical Society of Australia.

Hannan never recoiled from an argument. Moran observed that he had ‘a tendency to get very fiery at times’ but added that he was ‘entirely devoid of malice’ and ‘completely without any trace of selfishness or self-seeking’ (ANUA 19/39/3977 (1)) His retirement in 1986 was marked by the publication of a festschrift entitled Essays in Time Series and Allied Processes (1986) and by the publication of special volume 23A (1986) of the Journal of Applied Probability. As professor emeritus and visiting fellow, he accepted invitations to lecture at many of the world’s leading universities, and maintained his service on the editorial boards of numerous academic journals. By the end of his career he had written more than 130 papers and four influential books.

A devoted family man who loved literature and was widely read, Hannan had a special attachment to the poetry of W. B. Yeats. He was also an enthusiastic follower of Australian Rules football. An asthmatic throughout his life, he died suddenly at Woden, Australian Capital Territory, on 7 January 1994 and was cremated. He was survived by his wife, two daughters, and two sons. The Australian Academy of Science established the Hannan medal and lecture to commemorate his contribution to time series analysis.

Research edited by Brian Wimborne

Select Bibliography

  • ANU Archives (ANUA) 19/39/
  • ANU Archives (ANUA) 19/39/
  • ANU Archives (ANUA) 19/39/3977(1), (2), (3)
  • Australian National University Archives (ANUA) 19/39/3977)
  • Australian National University Archives (ANUA) 19/39/3977(S)
  • Gani, Joe. ‘Obituary: Edward James Hannan.’ Australian Journal of Statistics 36, no. 1 (1994): 1–8
  • Gani, Joe and M. B. Priestly, eds.  ‘Essays in Time Series and Allied Processes.’ Special issue,  Journal of Applied Probability, 23A  (1986)
  • Pagan, E. ‘ET Interview: Professor E J Hannan.’ Econometric Theory 1, no. 2 (1985): 263-89
  • Robinson, P. M. ‘Memorial Article: Edward James Hannan, 1921–1994.’ Journal of Time Series Analysis 15, no. 6 (1994): 563–76

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Citation details

Selwyn Cornish, 'Hannan, Edward James (Ted) (1921–1994)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published online 2018, accessed online 25 October 2020.

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