Cover image for Statistics on the table : the history of statistical concepts and methods
Statistics on the table : the history of statistical concepts and methods
Stigler, Stephen M.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
ix, 488 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Format :


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QA276.15 .S755 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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This collection of essays examines in detail the history of some of the concepts involved in bringing statistical argument to the table, and some of the pitfalls that have been encountered. Topics range from 17th century medicine and blood circulation to the meter of Virgil's poetry.

Author Notes

Stephen M. Stigler is Ernest DeWit Burton Distinguished Service Professor of Statistics at the University of Chicago.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

Stigler (Univ. of Chicago) is an expert on the history of statistics. His book is not a complete survey of the subject but a well-selected collection of 22 essaysÄsome involving major central mathematical ideas, others of a more popular natureÄthat vividly explore a number of interesting topics about a subject with so many diverse applications. Stigler covers mainly European and American contributions to the field of statistics from the 1700s to the 1960s and 1970s. Other works by the same author related to this topic are American Contributions to Mathematical Statistics in the Nineteenth Century and The History of Statistics: The Measurement of Uncertainty Before 1900. Recommended for large public libraries, academic libraries, and specialized collections in the history of sciences and the history of statistics.ÄNestor Osorio, Northern Illinois Univ. Libs., DeKalb (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Stigler's useful, readable, and valuable book, with its numerous illuminating illustrations and plentiful insights, is an authoritative and definitive work on the early development of mathematical statistics, and a delightful examination in witty detail of the contributions of Gauss, Laplace, deMoivre, Bayes, Galton, Lexis, James Bernoulli, Quetelet, Edgeworth, and others. With humor and conviction, Stigler (Univ. of Chicago) describes vividly the events leading to the emergence of statistical concepts and methods. The development of statistics is intimately connected with that of the normal curve, the principle of least squares, maximum likelihood principle, regression, and the level of uncertainty associated with data interpretation. Chapters discuss conceptual advances in the 19th century due to Pearson, Quetelet, Jevon, Edgeworth, and Francis Galton; describe the evolution of probability theory in the 17th century; and treat discovery as a topic in the sociology of science and the assignment of priorities for discoveries by scientists. In the last part Stigler considers the role of statistics in standards, and of standards in statistics. Illustrations keyed to the text; useful subject-author index; extensive reference list in 43 pages; appendix with credits. A valuable addition to graduate and upper-division undergraduate libraries. D. V. Chopra; Wichita State University

Table of Contents

W. H. Kruskal
Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introductionp. 1
I. Statistics and Social Science
1 Karl Pearson and the Cambridge Economistsp. 13
2 The Average Man Is 168 Years Oldp. 51
3 Jevons as Statisticianp. 66
4 Jevons on the King-Davenant Law of Demandp. 80
5 Francis Ysidro Edgeworth, Statisticianp. 87
II. Galtonian Ideas
6 Galton and Identification by Fingerprintsp. 131
7 Stochastic Simulation in the Nineteenth Centuryp. 141
8 The History of Statistics in 1933p. 157
9 Regression toward the Meanp. 173
10 Statistical Concepts in Psychologyp. 189
III. Some Seventeenth-Century Explorers
11 Apollo Mathematicusp. 203
12 The Dark Ages of Probabilityp. 239
13 John Craig and the Probability of Historyp. 252
IV. Questions of Discovery
14 Stigler's Law of Eponymyp. 277
15 Who Discovered Bayes's Theorem?p. 291
16 Daniel Bernoulli, Leonhard Euler, and Maximum Likelihoodp. 302
17 Gauss and the Invention of Least Squaresp. 320
18 Cauchy and the Witch of Agnesip. 332
19 Karl Pearson and Degrees of Freedomp. 338
V. Questions of Standards
20 Statistics and Standardsp. 361
21 The Trial of the Pyxp. 383
22 Normative Terminologyp. 403
Referencesp. 433
Creditsp. 477
Indexp. 479