University of Washington Professor of Statistics R. Douglas Martin was a consultant in the Mathematics and Research Center at Bell Laboratories, Murray Hill, NJ, for 10 years from 1974-1984. He worked in the same group where the S language for statistical analysis was being developed by John Chambers and Rick Becker, subsequently joined by Alan Wilks. Because of the extensive research on modern statistical methods and exploratory data analysis that were the focal point for the Bell Labs group, and the rich applications challenges throughout the Labs, it was an ideal environment for developing a language for data analysis and "programming with data."
Martin brought the first version of S to the UW campus in 1981. At first S was used primarily by a few researchers. By 1985 or so, S was being used in a number of graduate applied statistics courses by the Department of Statistics and the Department of Biostatistics (these two departments had closely integrated graduate curricula). By 1988, S was being used in a number of upper-division undergraduate classes. These uses of S were highly successful and it seemed a shame that there was not a commercial, polished and supported version available.
Because S appeared to be way ahead of the commercial statistical software packages in the late 1980's, because S seemed like a diamond in the rough, and because AT&T had no plans for commercializing S, Martin founded Statistical Sciences, Inc. (StatSci) for the purpose of commercializing S in the form of S-PLUS.
Because some value added functions for S had been developed in the Department of Statistics under research contracts and grants, and by some staff efforts, an arrangement was made through the UW Office of Technology Transfer whereby StatSci was able to include these functions in S-PLUS on a royalty free basis, in return for providing S-PLUS to the Department of Statistics on a cost-free basis, and providing S-PLUS to the University of Washington on a deeper discount than the usual University discounts for S-PLUS.
Martin hired a president to run StatSci on a day to day basis, but became increasingly involved in StatSci during summers and leaves of absence. By 1993 StatSci had obtained an world-wide exclusive license for publishing the S software in the form of S-PLUS.
StatSci was a closely held corporation, funded totally by Martin. StatSci was profitable for several consecutive years after the first year of business. In 1993, Martin sold StatSci to MathSoft, Inc., the maker of Mathcad. Martin took full leave of absence from the University of Washington for three years, starting with the academic year 1993-4, to devote full time to the StatSci Division of MathSoft, during which time he served first as Vice President of Technology and then as General Manager.
StatSci has grown from 3 employees in 1987, to 75 employees in the Data Analysis Products Division (DAPD) of MathSoft, in 1996. DAPD has an externally funded Research Department with 20 employees, carrying out a wide range of research projects in areas like wavelets, visual programming languages for data analysis, document image retrieval, spatial statistics, missing data methods, robust statistics, etc. S-PLUS currently has approximately 25,000 - 30,000 users in North America, and is enjoying substantial growth. DAPD has an ongoing relationship with Bell Laboratories, now part of Lucent Technologies, where work on new versions of the object-oriented S programming language and system continue. Overall DAPD has approximately 20 Ph.D.-level employees.