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Jan 7, 2013 9:18 AM
(2367 views)

Celebrating statisticians: Ronald A. Fisher

JMP users have spoken! On LinkedIn and Facebook, they overwhelmingly chose **Ronald A. Fisher** as the influential statistician to be profiled first in the JMP Blog as part of our celebration of the International Year of Statistics.

Here's what some voters had to say about Fisher:

The first Monday of each month, we'll have a post on one of a dozen statisticians. The 12 statisticians were selected by John Sall, co-founder and Executive VP of SAS and chief architect of JMP.

So we begin with Fisher! There's plenty to say about him -- indeed whole books -- but here's a sampling of information about him, largely from Wikipedia and the *Encyclopedia of Statistical Sciences* (2006). Let me know your favorite facts about Fisher in comments.

**Occupations:** Mathematician, statistician, evolutionary biologist, geneticist.

**Birth/Death:** 17 February 1890 – 29 July 1962. He was born in England and died of colon cancer in Australia.

**Contributions to Statistics:** Fisher’s exact test, Fisher’s equation, principles of design of experiments, ANOVA, Fisher's fundamental theorem, Maximum likelihood, Fisher information, Fisher–Kolmogorov equation, Fisher's geometric model, coining the term "null hypothesis," Fiducial inference, Fisher's principle, Fisherian runaway, F-distribution.

**Awards/Recognition**: Fellow of the Royal Society (1929), Royal Medal (1938), Guy Medal in Gold (1947), Copley Medal (1956), Knight Bachelor by Queen Elizabeth II (1952), Darwin-Wallace Medal (1958). He received honorary doctorates from a number of institutions, including Iowa State University (where he had been a visiting professor), Harvard University and the Indian Statistical Institute.

**Interesting Facts:** Fisher had poor eyesight, which made reading difficult; so he learned through listening to others read aloud to him. He started out studying mathematics (and excelling at it) but began to focus on statistics because of his interest in evolutionary theory. After marriage, he became a subsistence farmer. Fisher helped form the Cambridge University Eugenics Society in 1911. He was the father-in-law of George E.P. Box.

**Notable Quotes:** “To consult the statistician after an experiment is finished is often merely to ask him to conduct a post mortem examination. He can perhaps say what the experiment died of.” *Presidential Address to the First Indian Statistical Congress* (1938).

“In relation to any experiment we may speak of this hypothesis as the 'null hypothesis,' and it should be noted that the null hypothesis is never proved or established, but is possibly disproved, in the course of experimentation. Every experiment may be said to exist only in order to give the facts a chance of disproving the null hypothesis.” *The Design of Experiments*, Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, p. 18 (1935).

“We have the duty of formulating, of summarizing, and of communicating our conclusions, in intelligible form, in recognition of the right of *other* free minds to utilize them in making *their own* decisions.” “Statistical methods and scientific induction.” *Journal of the Royal Statistical Society,* B, 17, 69-78 (1955).

“I am a well-known statistician and a fairly well-known geneticist, but I have never been consulted on any appointment to a University post in statistics or genetics outside my own Department.” Quoted by A.W.F. Edwards (1990), *R.A. Fisher, Twice Professor of Genetics*: London and Cambridge, and, “A Fairly Well-Known Geneticist” *Biometrics* 46, 897-904 (1957).

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