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Legendary statistician David Salsburg sees history repeating itself

David Salsburg, author of The Lady Tasting TeaDavid Salsburg, author of The Lady Tasting Tea

David Salsburg, author of The Lady Tasting Tea, was the first statistician hired by Pfizer Central Research, where he worked on 15 successful products and hundreds of unsuccessful ones and rose to the top of the company’s scientific ladder. His publication record includes more than 50 articles in refereed journals and three academic books. He is a Fellow of the American Statistical Association and recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing and Research Association.

As anyone who has read The Lady Tasting Tea knows, Salsburg is skillful in his ability to describe the history of modern statistics and the people whose theories and methods have impacted science and industry today.

Sometimes we see history repeat itself. While ubiquitous internet use has resulted in large amounts of incidental data, Salsburg notes that the pressure to find hidden “truths” in masses of interrelated (and often messy, incomplete or highly correlated) data is not a new problem.

Salsburg asks, “How does one handle huge vectors of data where some of the items may be missing, incomplete or highly correlated to other items in this or related vectors?” In his JMP Foreword column, “Raking over the 21st-century muck heaps,” Salsburg describes how RA Fisher addressed this question when he took a post as Chief Statistician at Rothamsted Experimental Station.

jmp-foreword-social-tile-2.pngHe also points to John Tukey and W. Edwards Deming as examples of data exploration and visualization in earlier times. If you’d like to read the full column, please find it in JMP Foreword magazine.