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The Lady Tasting Tea: How Statistics Revolutionized Science in the Twentieth Century Paperback – May 1 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Holt Paperbacks; 1 edition (May 1 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805071342
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805071344
  • Product Dimensions: 20.8 x 14.1 x 2.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 340 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #27,708 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents


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It was a summer afternoon in Cambridge, England, in the late 1920s. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Elbert D. Porter on June 28 2003
Format: Paperback
This is another of those books about mathematics that avoids displaying any mathematical equations or formulas, like Stephen Hawking's "A Brief History of Time." Hawking explained that his publishers told him that every line of mathematics would cut the sales by 50%. Unfortunately, the lack of mathematics makes it much harder to transmit the ideas. In many places in this book, I miss the math sorely. This book is actually harder to understand as it is, then if it gave us the relevant equations and formulas. Maybe Salsburg (or some other generous soul) could put together a web site that provides the math, referenced to chapters in the book.
Nevertheless, the book tells its stories well, and rewards (and challenges) the reader with some ideas and concepts I'd like to at least remember, if not explore further.
Chapter seven briefly outlines "the Fisherian versus the Pearsonian view of statistics," a philosophical theme that is fundamental to the application of statistics to reality. "Karl Pearson viewed statistical distributions as describing the actual collections of data he would analyze. According to Fisher, the true distribution is an abstract mathematical formula, and the data collected can be used only to estimate the parameters of the true distribution.... Pearson viewed the distribution of measurements as a real thing.... To Fisher, the measurements were a random selection from the set of all possible measurements." I'm not sure what this means, exactly.
At the end of chapter six, there is a review of a math text (Gumbel's "Statistics of Extremes," an out of print collectible being offered through amazon...) from the 1950's that makes me want to find the book and read it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By mathtrix on March 5 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book is loaded with technical terms that are barely explained. True, the stories of the people involved in developing these ideas are presented in a vivid and clear style. But this does little to aid the reader in grasping these mathematical concepts so that they have meaning. After all, this book asserts that statistics has revolutionized science, and I did not feel anything like this at the end of this book. Moreover, the author glibly rejects all of chaos theory in a little bit more than 3 pages[93-6], at another point calls the law of cause and effect " a vague notion that will not withstand the batterings of pure reason"[ p 186] But what "pure reason" happens to be, the author never bothers to tell us. Moreover, he earlier asserts that "the statistical model that defines the quest of science...is also based on a statement of faith." This comment then merits a discussion of what axioms are being put forth. But again there is a conspicuous vacuum of thought.At the conclusion, Salsburg casts doubt on the entire subject of his book by stating :"I do not believe that the human mind is capable of organizing a structure of ideas that can come close to describing what is really out there." This self-contradiction coming from the mouth of a supposed science educator is a perfect reflection of the philosophical mess that constitutes this book. Not recommended.
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Format: Paperback
What a great book about stats, a great read. It helps to understand all the odd stories that helped to invent stats.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Per Kistler on Nov. 3 2003
Format: Paperback
An intriguing story based introduction to the fast field of
statistics. No formulas but still plenty of math terms explained
as easily as possible. The life stories of many statisticians
are combinded with the history of certain statistical problems.
This book showed me how huge the field of stastics is.
Statistics and Probability seem now to be scientific issues
on not just ways for politicians to cheat the public. In
everyday life, any mention of a statistic result causes at best
a compasionate smile. But this book changed that for me and I'd
like to learn more about this topic.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jeff Sutherland on Feb. 17 2002
Format: Hardcover
Most people don't realize that the very notion of proof, at least in the field of medicine, did not exist until 1934, when the founder of modern statistics, R.A. Fisher, invented it. He would undoubtedly have some scathing remarks on what currently passes for proof for new medical treatments. You'll read about all the great statisticians of the 20th century, many of whom fled the Nazi's, or the Russians, and wound up in the United States. One accomplished American statistician was laid off by Department of Agriculture bureaucrats in the great Depression and could only find a job in the Soviet Union under Stalin. What a great story! I met some of these guys at Stanford when I was getting my Masters Degree in Statistics in the 1970s. While they sometimes can be boring on the surface, underneath lurks a passion for reality rarely found in more superficially interesting folk. I used the text of Gumbel on how to compute the probability of a 100 year flood as the basis of my Ph.D. thesis on carcinogenesis at the University of Colorado School of Medicine Department of Biometrics in the 1980s. As a well rounded technologist, Gumbel also published a book on Four Years of Political Murder in 1922, followed by Causes of Political Murder in 1928, as a critique of the Nazis. When the Nazis came to power in 1933, he barely escaped Germany and had to hide out in Southern France. This is the best book of this type that I've read since Fermat's Enigma and it is best savored chapter by chapter over a cup of cappuccino in a Peets or Starbucks. A book for the general reader that every statistician should read!
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