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The History of Statistics: The Measurement of Uncertainty before 1900

The History of Statistics: The Measurement of Uncertainty before 1900

by Stephen M. StiglerStephen M. Stigler
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This magnificent book is the first comprehensive history of statistics from its beginnings around 1700 to its emergence as a distinct and mature discipline around 1900. Stephen M. Stigler shows how statistics arose from the interplay of mathematical concepts and the needs of several applied sciences including astronomy, geodesy, experimental psychology, genetics, and sociology. He addresses many intriguing questions: How did scientists learn to combine measurements made under different conditions? And how were they led to use probability theory to measure the accuracy of the result? Why were statistical methods used successfully in astronomy long before they began to play a significant role in the social sciences? How could the introduction of least squares predate the discovery of regression by more than eighty years? On what grounds can the major works of men such as Bernoulli, De Moivre, Bayes, Quetelet, and Lexis be considered partial failures, while those of Laplace, Galton, Edgeworth, Pearson, and Yule are counted as successes? How did Galton’s probability machine (the quincunx) provide him with the key to the major advance of the last half of the nineteenth century?

Stigler’s emphasis is upon how, when, and where the methods of probability theory were developed for measuring uncertainty in experimental and observational science, for reducing uncertainty, and as a conceptual framework for quantitative studies in the social sciences. He describes with care the scientific context in which the different methods evolved and identifies the problems (conceptual or mathematical) that retarded the growth of mathematical statistics and the conceptual developments that permitted major breakthroughs.

Statisticians, historians of science, and social and behavioral scientists will gain from this book a deeper understanding of the use of statistical methods and a better grasp of the promise and limitations of such techniques. The product of ten years of research, The History of Statistics will appeal to all who are interested in the humanistic study of science.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674403413
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 03/01/1990
Series: Belknap Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 1,080,217
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x (d)

About the Author

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

Table of Contents


PART 1: The Development of Mathematical Statistics in Astronomy and Geodesy before 1827

1. Least Squares and the Combination of Observations

Legendre in 1805

Cotes's Rule

Tobias Mayer and the Libration of the Moon

Saturn, Jupiter, and Enter

Laplace's Rescue of the Solar System

Roger Boscovich and the Figure of the Earth

Laplace and the Method of Situation

Legendre and the Invention of Least Squares

2. Probabilists and the Measurement of Uncertainty

Jacob Bernoulli

De Moivre and the Expanded Binomial

Bernoulli's Failure

De Moivre's Approximation

De Moivre's Deficiency

Simpson and Bayes

Simpson's Crucial Step toward Error

A Bayesian Critique

3. Inverse Probability

Laplace and Inverse Probability

The Choice of Means

The Deduction of a Curve of Errors in 1772-1774

What People are Saying About This

Lorraine Daston

Stigler's book exhibits a rare combination of mastery of technical materials, sensitivity to conceptual milieu, and near exhaustive familiarity with primary sources. An exemplary study

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