Who was Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis or ‘PCM’?

Headline : Who was Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis or ‘PCM’?

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About P C Mahalanobis

Early life:

  • P.C. Mahalanobis was born in Calcutta on June 29, 1893.
  • He was educated at the Brahmo Boys School, founded by Raja Ram Mohan Roy and went on to receive a B.Sc in Physics from Presidency College, Kolkata.
  • After completing his majors in Physics from Presidency College in Calcutta in 1912, Mahalabonis joined the University of London the following year.



  • He introduced to the concepts of anthropometry (the study of measurements and proportions of the human body) and anthropological data through Biometrika, a peer-reviewed scientific journal.
  • From here, he developed a keen interest in statistics and its utility to problems in meteorology and anthropology.


Founder of the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI):

  • As Mahalabonis had many colleagues who were interested in statistics, an informal group formed in the Statistical Laboratory located in his room in Presidency College.
  • After calling a meeting with few of his colleagues, Mahalabonis established the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) and formally registered it on April 28, 1932.
  • The ISI, under Mahalanobis, would go on to do some of the most spectacular large-scale survey and data analyses including assessing the impact of the 1942-43 Bengal famine, tabulating the 1941 census, surveys on rural indebtedness, velocity of circulation of rupee coins, traffic flow, crop yield estimation etc.
  • The institute founded the journal ‘Sankhya: the Indian Journal of Statistics’.


Mahalabonis Distance (MD):

  • Mahalabonis Distance (MD) is a multi-dimensional generalisation of the idea of measuring how many standard deviations away is point P from the mean of a distribution D.
  • Apart from MD, which measures distance relative to the centroid – a base or central point which can be thought of as an overall mean for multivariate data.
  • The most common use for the Mahalanobis distance is to find multivariate outliers, which indicates unusual combinations of two or more variables.


Contribution to sample survey:

  • Mahalabonis’ important contributions involved large-scale sample surveys.
  • He introduced the concept of pilot surveys and advocated the utility of sampling methods.


Mahalanobis model:

  • Mahalanobis played a key role in formulating the Second Five-Year Plan, which is synonymous with the ‘Mahalanobis model’, also known as the Feldman-Mahalanobis Model.
  • The basic idea of the model said that in order to increase domestic consumption, there needed to be an investment in the production of capital goods.
  • He emphasized on the importance of industrialization and also corrected previous census methodology errors.



  • Mahalabonis was deeply interested in cultural pursuits and was awarded one of the highest civilian awards, the Padma Vibhushan from the Government of India for his contribution to science.
  • In 2006, named June 29 as National Statistics Day in honour of Mahalanobis.
  • Mahalabonis died on June 28, 1972, a day before his seventy-ninth birthday.



Section : Miscellaneous