Roald Buhler

Roald Buhler

August 4, 1930 - November 17, 2013

Roald Buhler, the primary developer of the P-STAT statistical software program died November 17, 2013 in Princeton, N.J. He was a graduate of Oberlin College where he majored in music and minored in pinball and bridge. He started graduate work at Rutgers the year they acquired an IBM 650 computer -- the "cat's meow" of the day. For him computer programming led not to a degree but to a profession that he loved: a profession where he would be paid to play.

In 1960 Educational Testing Service hired Roald to work on the RCA 501. Soon he began consulting for Princeton professor Harold Gulickson who needed his data analyzed but viewed computers with awe. In 1961 there were no computer application programs. If you wanted computer output, you wrote the instructions yourself or you paid someone else to write them for you in assembler/machine language. Eventually Princeton decided it would be cheaper to offer Roald a job. He jumped at the chance without even asking what his salary might be.

His tenure (1963-1979) at Princeton University was during a period of enormous expansion in computing. As Computer Center director (1966-1970), he was responsible for both the choice of the first real "main frame" computer and the construction of the computer center. The job was a fascinating experience but entailed countless meetings and left little free time for the real fun of writing programs, playing tennis or watching the Princeton basketball and football teams.

Princeton's resources were abundant. John Tukey was a strong influence and many of his algorithms were included in what was developing into the program of statistical routines eventually named "P-STAT"(R). These routines were the easy part. The real work came in preparing real-life data such as medical records or survey responses which were keypunched onto cards or tape. Data cleaning, manipulation and portability is where Roald's programs excelled. P-STAT has been his life's work. It has been commercially available since 1979 and has customers worldwide.

His life was not just a working life. The brain that was so brilliant with computer code was also the brain of a musician, a poet with an extraordinary sense of humor, and a word-smith with a zest for life. He was a gentleman, a scholar, an athlete, a good father and a wonderful husband. We will miss him.

He is survived by Shirrell, his wife of 62 years, 4 children and their partners; Eric and Nancy, Sebbie and Chas, David and Karen, Marc and Jenny, and grandchildren Wade and Owen .

In lieu of flowers, you may send contributions in Roald Buhler's name to WWFM The Classical Network, 1200 Old Trenton Road, West Windsor, NJ, 08550. Telephone: 609.587.8989 You can sign Roald's online guestbook.

A celebration of Roald's life will coincide with the 50th Anniversary of P-STAT. Contact for information.

Note from Sebbie Buhler:
P-STAT (R) will continue to grow and support our customers, thanks largely to Roald's meticulous documentation of millions of lines of code that he and Shirrell wrote over the last 50 years.

For months I have been thinking about organizing an on-line Festschrift for Roald & Shirrell, in honor of the 50th Anniversary of P-STAT in 2014 (the first printed manual was in 1964). Roald knew about, and liked the idea.

We welcome contributions to Roald Buhler's Gedenkschrift and Shirrell Buhler's Festschrift (stories, photos, etc.) and hope you can join us in celebration of P-STAT's 50th Anniversary. For any additional information about P-STAT's 50th and the Celebration of Life for Roald, please email

If you would like to sign the online guestbook
Thank you for visiting this web page, honoring and paying tribute to Roald Buhler.

Photos of Roald Buhler

Roald at his 50th Reunion at Oberlin