The Lady Tasting Tea: How Statistics Revolutionized Science in the Twentieth Century Paperback – May 1 2002
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Science is inextricably linked with mathematics. Statistician David Salsburg examines the development of ever-more-powerful statistical methods for determining scientific truth in The Lady Tasting Tea, a series of historical and biographical sketches that illuminates without alienating the mathematically timid. Salsburg, who has worked in academia and industry and has met many of the major players he writes about, shares his subjects' enthusiasm for problem solving and deep thinking. This drives his prose, but never at the expense of the reader; if anything, the author has taken pains to eliminate esoterica and ephemera from his stories. This might frustrate a few number-head readers, but the abundant notes and references should keep them happy in the library for weeks after reading the book.
Ultimately, the various tales herein are unified in a single theme: the conversion of science from observational natural history into rigorously defined statistical models of data collection and analysis. This process, usually only implicit in studies of scientific methods and history, is especially important now that we seem to be reaching the point of diminishing returns and are looking for new paradigms of scientific investigation. The Lady Tasting Tea will appeal to a broad audience of scientifically literate readers, reminding them of the humanity underlying the work. --Rob Lightner --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
The development of statistical modeling in primary research is the underreported paradigm shift in the foundation of science. The lady of the title's claim that she could detect a difference between milk-into-tea vs. tea-into-milk infusions sets up the social history of a theory that has changed the culture of science as thoroughly as relativity did (the lady's palate is analogous to quantum physics' famous cat-subject), making possible the construction of meaningful scientific experiments. Statistical modeling is the child of applied mathematics and the 19th-century scientific revolution. So Salsburg begins his history at the beginning (with field agronomists in the U.K. in the 1920s trying to test the usefulness of early artificial fertilizer) and creates an important, near-complete chapter in the social history of science. His modest style sometimes labors to keep the lid on the Wonderland of statistical reality, especially under the "This Book Contains No Equations!" marketing rule for trade science books. He does his best to make a lively story of mostly British scientists' lives and work under this stricture, right through chaos theory. The products of their advancements include more reliable pharmaceuticals, better beer, econometrics, quality control manufacturing, diagnostic tests and social policy. It is unfortunate that this introduction to new statistical descriptions of reality tries so hard to appease mathophobia. Someone should do hypothesis testing of the relationship between equations in texts and sales in popular science markets it would make a fine example of the use of statistics. Illus.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to the Hardcover edition. See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
This book accomplishes two things. First, it conveys the development of statistics in the 20th century as the science of science - i.e. how experiments and surveys form the basis for knowledge and how to evaluate that knowledge. Second, it puts a human face on those who contributed to the field. The author's stories of Fisher vs. Neyman are wonderful. I especially appreciated how Salsburg relates the role of women in the field. They were often would-be mathematicians who were directed into statistics as a more "appropriate" field for women. Fortunately, as government use of statistics expanded, women civil servants were often already in place to provide quality analysis.
This book will probably not be widely read, but it should be...especially by scientists, journalists, and teachers.
Most recent customer reviews
What a great book about stats, a great read. It helps to understand all the odd stories that helped to invent stats.Published on March 13 2012 by Artie
Salsburg shows that the history of statistics is probably pretty interesting, but in trying to stay away from the math, he makes it harder to understand. Read morePublished on Jan. 29 2010 by Gord McKenna
I thought this was a great book. The author uses interesting examples for the use of statistics in every day life and we discover how this complicated science has many everyday... Read morePublished on July 20 2004 by Karine Seidman
Salsburg(S) does an excellent job discussing the historical development of the field of statistics in the 20th century. Read morePublished on July 17 2004 by Michael Emmett Brady
It should come as no surprise to any reader that a 300 page collection of anecdotes might fall a bit short in realizing the implied goal in Salsburg's subtitle. Read morePublished on May 25 2004 by Peter A. Kindle
An intriguing story based introduction to the fast field of
statistics. No formulas but still plenty of math terms explained
as easily as possible. Read more
This book is almost wonderful. It presents an account of the history of statistics that I almost couldn't put down. Read morePublished on Oct. 24 2003 by Jonathan Gilligan
Writing a story of mathematics for a general audience is never easy (in addition to this book I am also thinking of Berlinski's "Tour of the Calculus"). Read morePublished on June 16 2003 by Amazon Customer
This book is a wonderful depiction of the history of Statistics and its great contributors. Dr. Salsburg conveys the stories of the great minds of the statistical world in an... Read morePublished on Aug. 9 2002
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