Earliest Uses of Symbols in Probability and Statistics

# Earliest Uses of Symbols in Probability and Statistics -...

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Earliest Uses of Symbols in Probability and Statistics This page has largely been contributed by John Aldrich of the University of Southampton. It was last updated on March 9, 2005. The origins of both probability and statistics are usually traced to the 17 th century. Over the centuries these subjects have been in contact with each other and with other branches of mathematics and science. The story is treated, in more or less detail, by Tankard (1984), Stigler (1986) Hald (1986, 1998). The late 19 th and early 20 th century origins of modern probability theory are treated by von Plato (1994). For probability and statistics entries on the Words pages, see here for a list. Contents The entries below are organised as follows. Because of the interconnectedness of the histories the categories overlap. Combinatorial analysis : Many of the symbols of elementary combinatorial analysis found in modern probability and statistics books were created in the 19 th century. In 19 th century Britain probability was most visible in algebra textbooks as an application of combinatorial analysis. The normal distribution , also known as the Gaussian distribution, the second law of Laplace, the law of error . .. , has been studied since the 18 th century and many people have left their tracks on the notation. Probability : At the turn of the 20 th century there was a revival of interest in probability in continental Europe. The central limit theorem was one of their main concerns. The main contributors were Russian and French and they created much of the modern terminology and notation around 1930. Statistics : None of the notation used by Laplace and Gauss and their followers has survived into modern statistics. The oldest notation still in use comes from the period 1890-1940 when the British biometrician/statisticians Karl Pearson and R. A. Fisher introduced many of the basic symbols and many of the principles for constructing new ones. The languages of English statistics and continental European probability came together in the 1940s. Links Many of the classic works in probability and statistics are available on the web. There are links to several of them in the entries below. All the works linked appear on Peter M. Lee's Materials for the History of Statistics site. The site contains many other links as well. The individual with the greatest influence on present day statistical terminology and notation remains R. A. Fisher (1890-1962). Many of Fisher's papers are available from

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the University of Adelaide Library’s R. A. Fisher Digital Archive . The first edition of Fisher's tremendously influential textbook, Statistical Methods for Research Workers (1925) is available on the Classics in the History of Psychology website at Statistical Methods for Research Workers . For a sketch of the history of probability and statistics and notes on some of the key
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Earliest Uses of Symbols in Probability and Statistics -...

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