Albert E. G. Pilliner was born in Glasgow in 1909 but spent much of his childhood in Shrewsbury, where his father worked as an engineer. He was educated at the Priory Grammar School, Shrewsbury. Although he was accepted by Cambridge University, he was unsuccessful in receiving a scholarship and so went to Birmingham University where he studied Chemistry. On graduating, Pilliner went into teaching.
During the Second World War, he was selected for work in a government research facility near Wrexham and there he used his statistical knowledge and experience to evaluate the effectiveness of explosives. It was at this period in his life that Pilliner met William Emmett, another statistician.
After the war, he took up teaching again, teaching Chemistry and Physics, and continued to keep in touch with Emmett. It was possibly through this communication that Professor Sir Godfrey Thomson came to hear of Pilliner, because in 1949 he took up a post as lecturer at the Edinburgh Provincial Training Centre (later Moray House College of Education). On Thomson's retiral in 1951 and subsequent death in 1955, Pilliner and his colleagues continued Thomson's work within what became the Godfrey Thomson Unit for Academic Assessment, University of Edinburgh - dubbed Room 70 during Thomson's time. Pilliner took over the running of Room 70 as well as lecturing to the Dip.Ed. and B.Ed. courses for a number of years.
In 1961, after a successful research trip to Israel on behalf of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), Pilliner was invited to work for the NFER (National Foundation of Educational Research) which he turned down. By the 1970s however, most of his time was spent working as a consultant to the British Council, UNESCO, and other bodies, and he conducted research into the examination systems of many countries including Mauritius, Pakistan, and Malaysia.
Albert E. G. Pilliner died in 2003.