Education and early career
She began her career working from 1939 to 1944 in the Danish Bacon Company.
Guide International Service
At the end of the Second World War, Cunliffe interrupted her career to undertake voluntary relief work in Europe, from 1945 to 1947, with the Guide International Service. The service had been formed from specially trained ex-Girl Guide volunteers to help with the rehabilitation of Europe after the war. Cunliffe was among the first civilians to go into Belsen Concentration Camp in 1945, where the volunteers oversaw the so-called "human laundry", the delousing of the inmates.
In 1947 Cunliffe resumed her professional career by accepting a post as statistician at the Dublin brewers Arthur Guinness Son & Co., where she worked until 1970. In this role, she developed important principles of experimental methods that are taught to this day. In the most famous example, she redesigned the instructions for quality control workers who were tasked to either accept or reject handmade beer barrels. Before Cunliffe's redesign, workers accepted barrels by rolling them downhill and rejected barrels by pushing them uphill, the more difficult task; thus, workers were biased to accept barrels even if they were flawed. Cunliffe redesigned the quality control work station so that it was equally easy to reject or accept a barrel, eliminating the prior bias and saving Guinness money in the process.
In 1970 she became Head of Research Unit at the Home Office, before in 1972 being appointed Director of Statistics at the Home Office, a post she held until 1977. She was the first woman to reach this grade in the British Government Statistical Service. During her time at the Home Office she expanded the department's statistical and support staff, and established a dedicated computing team. She was a prison visitor, and promoted the use of statistics in criminal justice policy. She presented the Home Secretary, Roy Jenkins, with international comparisons to show that capital punishment had no effect on murder rates.
She was later Statistical Adviser to the Committee of Enquiry into the Engineering Profession from 1978 to 1980.
Presidential Address to the RSS
- Interaction Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. Series A (General), Vol. 139, No. 1. (1976), pp. 1–19.
Cunliffe's other activities included work with youth organisations, gardening and prison after-care. She served as a Mole Valley District Councillor from 1981 to 1999, chaired the local Community Health Council, and served as Chair of Governors for Parsons Mead School.
- "Stella Vivian CUNLIFFE Obituary: View Stella CUNLIFFE's Obituary by The Times". The Times. The Times. 31 January 2012. Retrieved 12 February 2012.
Stella Vivian died peacefully on 20th January 2012 aged 95.
- "Stella Cunliffe dies aged 95". This Is Surrey Today. 26 January 2012. Archived from the original on 13 September 2012. Retrieved 12 February 2012.
- "First woman RSS president, Stella Cunliffe, dies - RSSeNEWS". Royal Statistical Society. 26 January 2012. Retrieved 12 February 2012.
It is with sadness that we report that Stella Cunliffe, who was our first woman president, has died at the age of 95.
- Davies, Serena (14 August 2009). "100 years of the Girl Guides". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved 7 August 2010.
- A., Nolan, Susan (1 January 2016). Statistics for the behavioral sciences. Worth Pub. ISBN 978-1319014223. OCLC 956339986.
- Philpotts, Greg (1 October 2012). "Obituary: Stella Vivian Cunliffe MBE, January 12th, 1917–January 19th, 2012". Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, Series A. 175 (4): 1058. doi:10.1111/j.1467-985X.2012.01068.x.
- Leatherhead Advertiser. "Tributes to 'amazing' Stella Cunliffe". Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser. Local World. Archived from the original on 24 May 2014. Retrieved 21 April 2016.
- Haines, Catherine (2001). International Women in Science: A Biographical Dictionary to 1950. ABC-CLIO. pp. 74–75. ISBN 9781576070901. Retrieved 21 April 2016.
- "Past Presidents". Royal Statistical Society. Retrieved 22 September 2018.
- "Supplement to the London Gazette". The Gazette (53332). 12 June 1993. p. B16. Retrieved 21 April 2016.
- Champkin, Julian (2006). "A Life in Statistics: Beer and Statistics (An interview with Stella Cunliffe)". Significance. 3 (3): 126–9. doi:10.1111/j.1740-9713.2006.00184.x.
- Salsburg, David (2001). The Lady Tasting Tea: How Statistics Revolutionized Science in the Twentieth Century. New York: W. H. Freeman. ISBN 9780716741060. Chapter 25 includes an account of Cunliffe's career based on her presidential address.