Statistics on the Table: The History of Statistical Concepts and Methods / Edition 1

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Overview


This lively collection of essays examines in witty 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. The topics range from seventeenth-century medicine and the circulation of blood, to the cause of the Great Depression and the effect of the California gold discoveries of 1848 upon price levels, to the determinations of the shape of the Earth and the speed of light, to the meter of Virgil's poetry and the prediction of the Second Coming of Christ. The title essay tells how the statistician Karl Pearson came to issue the challenge to put "statistics on the table" to the economists Marshall, Keynes, and Pigou in 1911. The 1911 dispute involved the effect of parental alcoholism upon children, but the challenge is general and timeless: important arguments require evidence, and quantitative evidence requires statistical evaluation. Some essays examine deep and subtle statistical ideas such as the aggregation and regression paradoxes; others tell of the origin of the Average Man and the evaluation of fingerprints as a forerunner of the use of DNA in forensic science. Several of the essays are entirely nontechnical; all examine statistical ideas with an ironic eye for their essence and what their history can tell us about current disputes.
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Editorial Reviews

American Scientist

In Statistics on the Table, statistician and historian of science Stephen M. Stigler collects and revises 22 of his scholarly and often witty essays from the past 25 years reflecting the combination of detective work and statistical thinking that characterize his research.
— Valerie M. Chase

Biometrics

Mainstream statistical topics (e.g. maximum likelihood, degrees of freedom, regression toward the mean) and various statistical writers (particularly Karl Pearson, Jevons, Edgeworth, Galton, Bayes, Gauss and Cauchy) are discussed, as well as some historical curiosities...Any biometrician should find plenty in it to fascinate, enlighten and entertain.
— D. A. Preece

Choice

Stigler's useful, readable, and valuable book, with its numerous illuminating illustrations and plentiful insights, is an authoritative and definitive work in 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 describes vividly the events leading to the emergence of statistical concepts and methods.
— D. V. Chopra

Science News
[This book's] title comes from a letter written to the London Times in 1910 by the statistician Karl Pearson, exhorting critics of one of his studies to set aside mere opinions and put their 'statistics on the table.' Stigler uses this and other stories to relate the history of his subject, describing along the way the idiosyncratic individuals who have brought logic and mathematical rigor to a frequently confusing area of analysis. The reader who is not alarmed by the occasional graph or simple equation will find this a penetrating and entertaining account.
Perspectives in Biology and Medicine

[This is] a lively and controversial history...well captured in the second major book on the history of statistics by Stephen M. Stigler...In reading this collection, I was struck with the amount of scholarship and thought that went into each of the essays and with the liveliness and wit of the author's writing style.
— Paul S. Levy

ISIS

Stephen Stigler's 1986 book The History of Statistics: The Measurement of Uncertainty before 1900 was greeted with enthusiasm by both staticians and historians for its penetrating overview of developments in probabilistically oriented statistics before 1900. This new volume, too, will be of interest to both statisticians and historians…What is the same in this book-or, indeed, even better-is the sparkling and witty style…This book should without question have a place on the bookshelf of every person interested in the history of statistics.
— Ida H. Stamhuis

Technometrics
If you have an interest in the history of statistics and also history in relationship to statistics, you will want this book. The standard for scholarship within the statistical community has never been any higher than it is here.
American Scientist - Valerie M. Chase
In Statistics on the Table, statistician and historian of science Stephen M. Stigler collects and revises 22 of his scholarly and often witty essays from the past 25 years reflecting the combination of detective work and statistical thinking that characterize his research.
Biometrics - D. A. Preece
Mainstream statistical topics (e.g. maximum likelihood, degrees of freedom, regression toward the mean) and various statistical writers (particularly Karl Pearson, Jevons, Edgeworth, Galton, Bayes, Gauss and Cauchy) are discussed, as well as some historical curiosities...Any biometrician should find plenty in it to fascinate, enlighten and entertain.
Choice - D. V. Chopra
Stigler's useful, readable, and valuable book, with its numerous illuminating illustrations and plentiful insights, is an authoritative and definitive work in 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 describes vividly the events leading to the emergence of statistical concepts and methods.
Perspectives in Biology and Medicine - Paul S. Levy
[This is] a lively and controversial history...well captured in the second major book on the history of statistics by Stephen M. Stigler...In reading this collection, I was struck with the amount of scholarship and thought that went into each of the essays and with the liveliness and wit of the author's writing style.
Russell V. Lenth
It is great to have these essays collected in one volume . . . Irony and self-referencing humor abound in this book, making it entertaining; and clear exposition, thorough research, and insightful descriptions of key developments and personalities make it very much worth your time and money.
ISIS - Ida H. Stamhuis
Stephen Stigler's 1986 book The History of Statistics: The Measurement of Uncertainty before 1900 was greeted with enthusiasm by both staticians and historians for its penetrating overview of developments in probabilistically oriented statistics before 1900. This new volume, too, will be of interest to both statisticians and historians…What is the same in this book-or, indeed, even better-is the sparkling and witty style…This book should without question have a place on the bookshelf of every person interested in the history of statistics.
Library Journal
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 essays--some involving major central mathematical ideas, others of a more popular nature--that 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.--Nestor Osorio, Northern Illinois Univ. Libs., DeKalb Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Booknews
Stigler statistics, U. of Chicago has revised, sometimes extensively, 22 previously published essays explaining how various concepts related to statistics came to their current good repute. His topics range from 17th-century medicine and the circulation of blood to the cause of the Great Depression and the effect of the California gold discoveries of 1848 on price levels. They also describe the first appearance of the Average Man. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR booknews.com
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674009790
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/2002
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 504
  • Sales rank: 742,037
  • Product dimensions: 5.66 (w) x 9.18 (h) x 1.36 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen M. Stigler is Professor of Statistics at the University of Chicago.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements

Introduction

1. Statistics and Social Science

Karl Pearson and the Cambridge Economists

The Average Man is 167 Years Old

Jevons as Statistician

Jevons on the King-Davenant Law of Demand

Francis Ysidro Edgeworth, Statistician

2. Galtonian Ideas

Galton and Identification by Fingerprints

Stochastic Simulation in the Nineteenth Century

The History of Statistics in 1933

Regression toward the Mean

Statistical Concepts in Psychology

3. Some Seventeenth-Century Explorers

Apollo Mathematicus

The Dark Ages of Probability

John Craig and the Probability of History

4. Questions of Discovery

Stigler's Law of Eponymy

Who Discovered Bayee's Theorem?

Daniel Bernoulli, Leonhard Euler, and Maximum Likelihood

Gauss and the Invention of Least Squares

Cauchy and the Witch of Agnesi

Karl Pearson and Degrees of Freedom

5. Questions of Standards

Statistics and Standards

The Trial of the Pyx

Normative terminology
with W. H. Kruskal

References

Credits

Index

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2006

    Arcane Subject Comes to Life

    Stigler is a gifted historian of mathematics, especially in the sense of his dedication to thoroughness and objectivity. His insightful readings of obscure authors alone are worth reading in their own right. He has gone to great lengths to recount thinking as it evolved toward the modern sub-discipline of mathemetics now known as statistics. For the serious researchers, for those who care about history or have a serious need to know about how to evaluate social behavior with the least possible error, this is the book to be read carefully. This is not a how-to book. Rather, it is a collection of essays on a number of statistical concepts, how they developed, and who was really who in the history of this key branch of mathematics. Every essay carries a 'moral' of substance that requires little or no math to grasp. Stigler traces the evolution of thought from intuitive hunches, through qualitative conclusions to semi- quantitative statements, always with the margin of error in mind. The margin of error separates the statistical approach from all other analytical techniques. Those who employ statistics on all available information in their decision making, will be right rather more often than their counterparts proceeding on hunches, biases or intuition. The value of this tool is literally immeasurable. Neverthless, it can also be misused, and Stigler is perhaps at his best in describing how that has happened so often inadvertantly, even by statisticians themselves!

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