Origin of Statistics and Probability
The original idea of"statistics" was the collection
of information about and for the"state". The word statistics derives
directly, not from any classical Greek or Latin roots, but from the Italian
word for state.
The birth of statistics occurred in mid-17th century.
A commoner, named John Graunt, who was a native of London, began reviewing
a weekly church publication issued by the local parish clerk that listed
the number of births, christenings, and deaths in each parish. These
so called Bills of Mortality also listed the causes of death. Graunt
who was a shopkeeper organized this data in the form we call descriptive
statistics, which was published as Natural and Political Observations
Made upon the Bills of Mortality. Shortly thereafter he was elected
as a member of Royal Society. Thus, statistics has to borrow some concepts
from sociology, such as the concept of population.
It has been argued that since statistics usually involves the study of
human behavior, it cannot claim the precision of the physical sciences.
Probability has much longer history. Probability is
derived from the verb to probe meaning to"find
out" what is not too easily accessible or understandable. The word"proof" has
the same origin that provides necessary details to understand what is
claimed to be true.
Probability originated from the study of games of chance and gambling
during the 16th century. Probability theory was
a branch of mathematics studied by Blaise Pascal and Pierre de Fermat
in the seventeenth century. Currently in 21st century,
probabilistic modeling is used to control the flow of traffic through
a highway system, a telephone interchange, or a computer processor; find
the genetic makeup of individuals or populations; quality control; insurance;
investment; and other sectors of business and industry.
New and ever growing diverse fields of human activities are using statistics;
however, it seems that this field itself remains obscure to the public.
Professor Bradley Efron expressed this fact nicely:
During the 20th Century statistical
thinking and methodology have become the scientific framework for literally
dozens of fields including education, agriculture, economics, biology,
and medicine, and with increasing influence recently on the hard sciences
such as astronomy, geology, and physics. In other words, we have grown
from a small obscure field into a big obscure field.
Back to Statistical
Forecasting Home Page