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

4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0674836013
ISBN-10: 0674836014
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Editorial Reviews

From 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 essaysAsome involving major central mathematical ideas, others of a more popular natureAthat 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.ANestor Osorio, Northern Illinois Univ. Libs., DeKalb
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.


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 American Scientist)

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 Biometrics 2000-12-01)

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 Choice)

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. (Nestor Osorio Library Journal)

[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. (Science News)

[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 Perspectives in Biology and Medicine)

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 ISIS)

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. (Technometrics)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (November 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674836014
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674836013
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.6 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #540,179 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Michael R. Chernick on February 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Stephen Stigler is a well-known statistician and author. He is also one of the few statisticians to do intense research on historical facts related to the development of the field. He has written other fine books on the history of statistics. This book concentrates on stories in the history of statistics where statistical analyses were done that had an impact and the statisticians laid their cards on the table. Too often, even today claims are made that require statistical evidence but the evidence is lacking, or some of the assumptions are hidden. Starting with the controversy between Karl Pearson and the Cambridge economists, Stigler shows how important it is to bring out the assumptions and methods used to make the case convincing and how not to fall into subtle traps. He also points out that attribution of a method to a person does not usually go to the discoverer. He calls it Stigler's Law of Eponymy. Examples include Chebychev's inequality discovered earlier by Bienayme and the Gaussian distribution associated with Gauss but known earlier by De Moivre and Laplace. He also includes a chapter questioning whether Thomas Bayes was the discoverer of Bayes's Theorem.
Well written and thoroughly researched, this is a great reference book on aspects of the history of statistics. This book is typical of what we have learned to expect from Stigler.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Francesco Lovecchio on July 27, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The author is a well-known statistician who has also a gift as historian. The book is a collection of essays on the development of the main ideas in Statistics. These essays are not in chronological order and overlap on several points. That can create some confusion in the reader. The first essay is about the controversy on the effect of parents' alcoholism on children between Karl Pearson and the Cambridge economists (A. Marshall, J.M. Keynes, A. Pigou). While Pearson expected harsh criticism from the medical profession he was unexpectedly broadsided by economists on the ground of logic instead of data. Pearson's response was: statistics on the table, please. The book goes on clarifying the developments of the main ideas in the field: Central Limit Theorem, Normal distribution, least squares, degrees of freedom, regression, Bayes's Theorem, and so on. It also provide the role of famous mathematicians like Gauss, Laplace, Legendre and others. However, Pearson, Galton and Edgeworth maintain a high visibility in the book. It is not a reference book of the historical development of ideas and intuitions in Statistics, and few chapters reflect more the interest of the author than the coherence with the title "Statistics on the Table. The History of Statistical Concepts and Methods" like in Statistics and Standards, and The Trial of the Pyx, or Apollo Mathematicus. Outstanding and funny is the chapter Stigler's law of Eponymy, which states that no scientific discovery is named after its original discoverer. It is definitively an enjoyable reading and I strongly recommend it to whoever has an interest, weak or strong, in the subject.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Juntung Wu on March 6, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Professor Stephen M. Stigler has written a very worthwhile textbook on the history of statistics, or, more accurately, the development of statistics in modern Western civilization. This book is not a strict chronology of the development of statistical science: it is more of a collection of profiles of profound, significant events that shaped the scientific community and the World at large.
Readers will be amazed by the author's knowledge and insights in this special corner of historical research, and can also look forward to a presentation of compelling stories and gripping dramas, complemented by the author's trademark wit and humour.
Given its position as one of the leading college text books in the history of statistics, this book is perhaps less accessible to a general audience compared with the recent crop of "popular science" books such as "Fermat's Enigma"; but any learned readers should nevertheless find this a highly informative and worthwhile book.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on March 3, 2000
Format: Hardcover
These essays examine some of the basic concepts involved in bringing statistical argument to the table, and considers the history of statistics and their methods and use. Essential to any college-level math course on the topic, Statistics on the Table probes how statisticians link statistics to social issues and daily life, providing essays which examine statistical ideas and their impact.
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