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Statistics on the Table: The History of Statistical Concepts and Methods Paperback – Oct 30 2002

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 504 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; Revised ed. edition (Sept. 30 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674009797
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674009790
  • Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 3.4 x 23.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 581 g
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #378,235 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


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)

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. (Russell V. Lenth, American Statistician)

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)

About the Author

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

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.9 out of 5 stars 7 reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book to understand where statistical ideas come from. July 27 2005
By Francesco Lovecchio - Published on
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.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent sequel Aug. 7 2010
By Claire Jones - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I purchased Dr. Stigler's earlier book on the history of statistics. I wrote him to inquire about a follow-up. He said that this book was as close as he would get. If you want to understand why certain statistical techniques developed the way they did then Stigler's two books are for you. In this modern world, we have every thing nice and neetly packaged for use. It is humbling to read about these pioneers who struggled to explain things with no adequate math to back them up...until they developed it themselves.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A collection of essays for statisticians but readable by the layman as well Aug. 23 2013
By BillH - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This collection of essays is primarily aimed at the statistician or mathematician and includes numerous undefined statistical terms and equations. Nevertheless, its readable prose is sufficiently descriptive for even a non-statistician like me to follow and enjoy.
I gave the book four stars only because of my lack of statistical training. I think a reader who has taken even a couple of beginning statistical courses would have no trouble with the concepts described.
32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful historical account of the growth of statistics in science Feb. 12 2008
By Michael R. Chernick - Published on
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.
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Concise introductory book on history of statistics March 6 2000
By Amazon Customer - Published on
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.