The Rise of Statistical Thinking, 1820-1900

Front Cover
Princeton University Press, 1986 - Science - 333 pages
Not since the invention of the calculus, if ever, has a new field of mathematics found such extensive application as statistics in the twentieth-century. This book presents thoroughly and lucidly the diverse nineteenth-century origins of the mathematical tool of our day. Emphasizing the debt of science to nonspecialist intellectuals, Theodore Porter describes in detail the nineteenth-century background that produced the burst of modern statistical innovation of the early 1900s. He shows that the natural and social sciences were surprisingly interdependent. Statistics arose as a study of society, the science of the statist, and the pioneering statistical physicists and biologists, Maxwell, Boltzmann, and Galton, each introduced statistical models by pointing to analogies between his discipline and social science. The author also examines significant philosophical issues raised by the development of statistics in the 1800s. For a time, the evident success of statistical social science was held to be inconsistent with human free will. Gradually a consensus was developed that the need for statistical methods arose from the diversity of phenomena, which precluded explanation in detail. Debates concerning the nature of statistical knowledge were central to the new indeterminism that began to emerge at the end of the century. -- from back cover.
 

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Contents

Statistics as Social Science
18
The Numbers of a Dynamic Society
23
The Laws That Govern Chaos
40
Quetelet and the Numerical Regularities of Society
41
Liberal Politics and Statistical Laws
55
From Natures Urn to the Insurance Office
71
PART TWO
89
THE SUPREME LAW OF UNREASON
91
The Science of Diversity
171
Between Nature and History
177
Times Arrow and Statistical Uncertainty in Physics and Philosophy
193
Buckles Laws and Maxwells Demon
194
Boltzmann Statistics and Irreversibility
208
Peirces Rejection of Necessity
219
PART FOUR
229
POLYMATHY AND DISCIPLINE
231

The Errors of Art and Nature
93
Error and Variation
100
Social Law and Natural Science
110
Molecules and Social Physics
111
Galton and the Reality of Variation
128
PART THREE
147
THE SCIENCE OF UNCERTAINTY
149
Statistical Law and Human Freedom
151
The Opponents of Statistics
152
Statistics and Free Will
162
The Mathematics of Statistics
233
Lexiss Index of Dispersion
240
Mathematics and Economics
255
The Roots of Biometrical Statistics
270
Regression and Correlation
286
Pearson and Mathematical Biometry
296
Conclusion
315
Index
321
Copyright

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