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Title: The development of statistical theory in Britain, 1865-1925 : a historical and sociological perspective
Author: MacKenzie, Donald
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1978
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This thesis discusses the development of statistical theory in Britain in the period 1865 to 1925, and attempts to account for this development as an institutional and an intellectual phenomenon. Close connections are shown to have existed between statistical theory as a scientific specialty and eugenics and social Darwinism, in particular in the work of Francis Galton (1822 -1911) and Karl Pearson (1857- 1936). An analysis of eugenics as a social and political movement is presented, and it is argued that eugenics played a major role in facilitating the institutional growth of statistical theory as a field of study. Two scientific controversies involving Karl Pearson and his followers (with William Bateson and the early Mendelians, and with George Udny Yule) are examined, and it is suggested that these controversies might usefully be seen as generated and sustained by divergent social interests. The development of the theory of statistical inference in this period is discussed briefly, and the early pioneering work of W.S. Gosset ('Student') and R.A. Fisher is surveyed. It is concluded that the generation and assessment of scientific innovations by statisticians in this period must be seen as fundamentally affected by social factors having their origins both within science and in the wider society.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available