A Guide to R. A. Fisher

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John Aldrich

 

 

 

Ronald Fisher in 1956

 

Note on links

The outstanding resource is the University of Adelaide Library’s R. A. Fisher Digital Archive. This had already made available a great deal of Fisher material but in October 2004 it put much more on-line.

 

Many articles about Fisher are available through the institutional subscription service JSTOR. Links are provided to them as well. Information about JSTOR can be had from http://www.jstor.org/.

 

Biographical Sketch

Ronald Aylmer Fisher was born in London on 17th February 1890. His father was a successful fine arts auctioneer and for most of Ron’s childhood the family lived very comfortably in Hampstead. Ron showed ability at an early age. He was particularly precocious in mathematics, though his biology teacher divided for “sheer brilliance” all those he had ever taught into Fisher and the rest. Fisher went up to Caius College Cambridge graduating in 1912 with a first in mathematics. Fisher’s tutor was an astronomer and his first paper On an Absolute Criterion for Fitting Frequency Curves published while he was still a student came out of his study of the theory of errors. However Fisher’s hopes were fixed on the biometricians and he most badly wanted the absolute criterion (the future maximum likelihood) to be noticed by them. In Mendelism and Biometry, an address to an undergraduate society, Fisher envisaged a synthesis of these contesting research programmes in heredity. Fisher’s interest in heredity was combined with a commitment to eugenics; he was one of the founders of the University of Cambridge Eugenics Society—see Veronica di Mambro. This led to a friendship with Leonard Darwin, son of Charles and president of the Eugenics Education Society which published the Eugenics Review for which Fisher would write many pieces. Darwin’s support, financial, intellectual and emotional, was important to Fisher especially in the early part of his career.

After graduating Fisher had several jobsin an actuarial office and on a farm in Canada amongst others. Poor eyesight barred him from service in the First World War. He was a schoolmaster when he published his Frequency Distribution of the Values of the Correlation Coefficient in Samples from an Indefinitely Large Population (1915) and on The Correlation between Relatives on the Supposition of Mendelian Inheritance (1918). The first established a new era in the exact theory of sampling distributions. The second vindicated Mendelism and Biometry for it showed how Karl Pearson’s biometric results could be explained by Mendelian theory.

In 1919 John Russell of Rothamsted Experimental Station hired Fisher on a temporary basis to see if a statistician could do anything with the mass of data accumulated there. Studies in Crop Variation. I  (1921) was the first of a stream of papers showing what could be done.  There had been some statistical work on agricultural experiments before the war involving ‘Student’ (W. S. Gosset) and Fisher’s Cambridge tutor, the astronomer F.J.M. Stratton, but Fisher raised the subject to a new level. Fisher left Rothamsted in 1933 as head of a statistics department drawing pilgrims from all over the world. There he developed the analysis of variance as well as a new approach to experimental design. His principles of randomisation, replication and blocking were presented in Statistical Methods for Research Workers  (1925), The Arrangement of Field Experiments (1926) and more fully in The Design of Experiments  (1935).

Fisher continued to work on statistical and genetical theory. On the Mathematical Foundations of Theoretical Statistics (1922) and Theory of Statistical Estimation (1925) advanced a new theory of estimation in opposition to the Bayesian approach. It emphasised maximum likelihood as an efficient way of extracting information from the data. Meanwhile Fisher was reconstructing the theory of Pearson’s chi-squared test (On the Interpretation of χ2 from Contingency Tables) and extending the scope of Student’s distribution—see Applications of "Student’s" Distribution. These developments, like the analysis of variance, relied on a new system of distribution theory, based on the interrelation of the normal t, χ 2 and z (a function of the modern F) distributions. This was presented in On a Distribution Yielding the Error Functions of Several Well Known Statistics (1924). The Statistical Methods for Research Workers  (1925) instructed researchers in the methods based on this system. The book revolutionised applied statistics, replacing the methods Pearson had introduced at the turn of the century.

Fisher’s genetical research at Rothamsted concentrated on evolution, on integrating Mendelian theory with Darwin’s theory of natural selection. His first major theoretical paper was On the Dominance Ratio (1922). He collaborated with E. B. Ford on the analysis of selection in wild populations. His ideas on evolution were brought together in Genetical Theory of Natural Selection (1930). He argued that Mendelism with its view of particulate inheritance did not contradict Darwinism but was consistent with it. With Sewall Wright and J. B. S. Haldane, Fisher is generally recognised as one of the architects of The Modern Synthesis—on the theoretical side at least.

In 1933 Fisher succeeded Pearson as Galton Professor of Eugenics and head of the Galton Laboratory at University College, London. Fisher had much greater admiration for Francis Galton than for his disciple. Though Fisher was Pearson’s natural successor in both statistics and eugenics, he did not inherit the whole empire for a Department of Applied Statistics was split off headed by Pearson’s son, E. S. Pearson. This structure did not make for harmony and relations between Fisher and members of Pearson’s department, especially its leading theorist, Jerzy Neyman, gradually deteriorated.

In London Fisher continued to work on fiducial inference, an approach he had introduced in Inverse Probability (1930). In The Fiducial Argument (1935) he applied it to the Behrens-Fisher problem. His Two New Properties of Mathematical Likelihood (1934) showed how ancillary statistics could be used in conditional inference. On the biological side he set up a unit to study the genetics of blood groups; see Box (ch. 13). The unit, which included G. L. Taylor and R. R. Race, did important work on Rhesus blood groups. Fisher also had a breeding colony of mice.

In 1943 Fisher returned to Cambridge as professor and head of the Department of Genetics. His Theory of Inbreeding provided a theoretical analysis of the mouse experiments he had been conducting since his London days. Fisher was profoundly unsympathetic to the mathematical statistics that Neyman and Wald were developing in the United States. His Statistical Methods and Scientific Inference (1956) criticised those developments and gave a theoretical defence of his own practice. In 1958 Fisher challenged Austin Bradford Hill’s inference from the association between smoking and lung cancer that the former was an important cause of the latter; see Smoking. The Cancer Controversy.  He retired officially from Cambridge in 1957 but stayed until 1959. He spent the last three years of his life in Adelaide as a Research Fellow at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO). His contacts in Adelaide were J. H. Bennett and E. J. Cornish. Fisher died in Adelaide on July 29th 1962 and his ashes lie there in St. Peter’s Cathedral.

Fisher received plenty of recognition. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1929 (certificate of election), awarded its Royal Medal in 1938, Darwin Medal in 1948 and Copley Medal in 1955; he was knighted in 1952. Fisher inspired and gave warmth and loyalty but intellectual differences often generated personal enmities. The most enduring of these was with Karl Pearson; this had the result that after 1915 the leading statistician never published in the leading statistics journal, Pearson’s Biometrika. Later there were quarrels with Neyman and Wright.

 

Main sources: Box ,  Savage  (a brilliant review of Fisher’s statistical work) and

Yates, F. & K. Mather (1963) Ronald Aylmer Fisher 1890-1962, Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society, 9, 91-120.

 

Brief Lives

·         St Andrews. Many of the mathematicians whose lives are recorded on this site have a part in the Fisher story and links to their lives appear below.

·         Heinz Kohler. This is one of several biographical sketches accompanying Kohler’s textbook Business Statistics.

 

Pictures

 St Andrews   Portraits of Statisticians  Portrait at Gonville & Caius.  Memorial window.   Fisher’s childhood home.   Lloyd Allison’s pictures of Fisher and of St. Peter’s Cathedral. Royal Society portraits here and here.

 

The 50th anniversary of Fisher’s death in 2012 has been commemorated by a conference at the Royal Statistical Society. See here for the programme.

 

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Fisher’s writings

 

A full bibliography of Fisher’s writings is available from Adelaide. This is an extended version of the bibliography in volume 1 of the Collected Papers.

 

Books

Fisher’s published six books and all went into more than one edition. Five appeared in posthumous editions incorporating alterations he had planned. Only the Genetical Theory exists in a variorum edition.

 

·         Statistical Methods for Research Workers, 14 editions, 1925 /28 /30 /32 /34 /36 /38 /41 /44 / 46 /50 /54 /58 / 70, Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd. From the 1948 reprint of the 10th edition the book was also published in New York: by Hafner. There were translations into French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Japanese at least.

This was Fisher’s most influential statistics book. It is essentially a book of significance test recipes. Behind the recipes was the system of sampling distributions based on the normal distribution. Fisher’s ideas on randomisation in experiments were first presented here, as well as his reconstruction of regression theory. New editions with extra recipes appeared every few yearsthe first edition had 239 pages, the last 362 more densely filled pages. While new sections were interpolated the basic structure remained unchanged and old material that had been important, such as the intra-class correlation, was never retired. Some old material was rewritten in the light of new developments, e.g. the text had to accommodate the introduction of the fiducial argument in 1930. To see how the paragraphs on probability and likelihood in the first chapter were rewritten see Likelihood & Probability and follow the trail of red ink. In 1951 an issue of JASA celebrated the book’s silver jubilee. The first edition is available on Christopher Green’s Classics in the History of Psychology website. Six reviews of the 1st edition are known and are available on the web—by Student, E. S. Pearson (who also reviewed the 2nd edition), Harold Hotelling (who reviewed the first 7 editions!) and Isserlis as well as unsigned reviews in Nature and the BMJ. Edwards describes the first edition and how it was received.

 

·         The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection, 3 editions 1930 /58 /99. Oxford University Press (1930), Dover (1958), Oxford University Press (1999).

W. D. Hamilton rated this book as “second in importance in evolution theory to Darwin’s Origin”. It launched the “fundamental theorem of natural selection” the subject of much later debate. The reviews are reviewed in Bennett Natural Selection (pp. 35ff). Only two reviews are currently available on JSTOR: both emphasise the chapters on human populations—N. M. Grier in Social Forces Dec (1930) JSTOR and A. B. Hill in JRSS No. 1 (1931) JSTOR. Fisher prepared a second edition (1958) but the revisions were not carefully done. J. H. Bennett has edited a complete variorum edition (1999) with numerous additional documents. For more information see B. D. Neville’s review

 

·         The Design of Experiments, 8 editions, 1935 /37 /42 /47 /49 /51 /60 /66, Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd. From 5th edition also published New York: Hafner

This work expounded the principles of experimental design Fisher had been developing since the mid 20s. It was essentially an ideas book and much of the associated statistical analysis was presented in Statistical Methods for Research Workers. Over the years Fisher added some sub-sections and changed some of the text but the final edition of the book is not very different from the first. The first edition was reviewed by S. V. Eaton Botanical Gazette, 97, (Dec., 1935), 426-427 JSTOR,  Harold Hotelling Journal of the American Statistical Association, 30, (Dec., 1935), 771-772 JSTOR and C. C. Craig American Mathematical Monthly, 43, (Mar., 1936), 180-181 JSTOR.

 

·         Statistical Tables for Biological Agricultural and Medical Research (with F. Yates), 6 editions, 1938 /43 /49 /53 /57 /63, Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd. From 3rd edition also published New York: Hafner.

The basic tables were provided in Statistical Methods for Research Workers with instruction in how to use them. Those presented here were much more extensive—more distributions were covered and individual tables were less abbreviated and successive editions brought in extra tables. The tables are prefaced by an Introduction describing their use. Yates recalled the origins of the book in his foreword to the 1990 compendium: “By the mid-1930s it became increasingly obvious that a book of tables, containing properly bound copies of those included in Statistical Methods, would be of great benefit to practical workers. When I first suggested this Fisher was averse to it, but eventually he changed his mind. I then discovered, somewhat to my surprise, that he had indeed been thinking about this for some time.” The sixth (posthumous) edition is available from Adelaide here. M. G. Kendall ends his review of the first edition with, “The book will be indispensable to users of the newer methods in statistics.” Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, 102, (1939),  p. 298  JSTOR.

 

·         Theory of Inbreeding, 2 editions, 1949 /65, Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd. 2nd edition also published New York: Academic Press.

A theoretical investigation of certain aspects of inbreeding and a presentation of the theory of junctions. Although the topic has both practical and theoretical interest and the opening chapter makes an interesting link with Darwin, this book has none of the general interest of the Genetical Theory of Natural Selection. There is a review by M. S. Bartlett JRSSA, 113, No. 2. (1950), 249-250 JSTOR

 

·         Statistical Methods and Scientific Inference, 3 editions, 1956/59/74, Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd. Also published New York Hafner.

This was Fisher’s only unified account of the principles underlying his approach to statistical inference—significance tests, likelihood and fiducial inference. It takes the form of a review of statistical inference since Bayes. As he had been doing since the 20s, Fisher criticised the Bayesian approach but he also criticised Neyman and Wald. Some of the points against them are made in his 1955 JRSSB article “Statistical Methods and Scientific Induction” JSTOR. Some new material was added in later editions.  The first edition was reviewed by N. T. J. Bailey JRSSA, 120, No. 1. (1957), 88-89 JSTOR , G. H. Jowett Applied Statistics, 6, No. 3, (1957), 226-227 JSTOR, M. S. Bartlett Biometrika, 44, (1957), 293-295, JSTOR, E. J. G. Pitman, Journal of the American Statistical Association, 52, No. 79, (1957), 322-330, JSTOR. E. H. Hutten British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 9, No. 33, (1958), 43-51, JSTOR. The review by D. V. Lindley in Heredity, 11, (1957), 280-2 angered Fisher; see the letter to Barnard on p. 36 of Statistical Inference & Analysis. In his obituary (p. 6) Maurice Kendall said he wished that Fisher had never written the book—or the smoking pamphlet.

 

Not a book but a pamphlet of 47 pages, reprinting the pieces Fisher had written on the topic. Apart from the additional note ‘Inhaling’ these are reproduced in the Collected Papers. The volume was reviewed by C. C. Spicer JRSSA, 122, No. 4. (1959), 554-556, JSTOR.

 

·         Statistical Methods, Experimental Design and Scientific Inference, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990.

A compilation edited by J. H. Bennett containing the posthumous editions of Statistical Methods for Research Workers, Design of Experiments and Statistical Methods and Scientific Inference as published by Hafner with a foreword by F. Yates.

 

Articles

The standard edition of Fisher’s papers is

J. H. Bennett (1971/4) Collected Papers of R. A. Fisher 5 volumes, Adelaide: Adelaide University Press.

This has 294 items but even so it lacks most of Fisher’s book reviews and some of his published contributions to discussions. Sets can be purchased from the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science, University of Waterloo.

 

Fisher made a selection of his statistical papers—and wrote notes on them—for the volume

These notes are included in the Bennett edition and in the digitalised version from Adelaide. The Shewhart volume was reviewed by E. S. Pearson Biometrika, 38, No. 1/2 (Jun., 1951), 257-259, JSTOR.

 

Web access

·         Many of the articles are available from Adelaide and there are links to several of these in this guide. All of the articles, except for Fisher’s review of Keynes’s Treatise on Probability, (CP32A in the list) had previously appeared in the Collected Papers.

 

 

 

 

Accessible Fisher

Although many of Fisher’s articles are available on the web, that does not make them easy to read—technical literature written between forty and ninety years ago seldom is. (Of the papers mentioned in the biographical sketch the most approachable is probably The Arrangement of Field Experiments.)

 

i) Fisher wrote many non-technical pieces. For the Eugenics Review he wrote expositions of his genetic papers as well as pieces on eugenics proper. In later years he wrote many perspective pieces. Here are some examples.

·         Some Hopes of a Eugenist. Eugenics Review, 5: 309-315 (1914)

·         The Causes of Human Variability. Eugenics Review, 10: 213-220. (1918)

·         Darwinian Evolution by Mutations. Eugenics Review, 14: 31-34 (1922)

·         The Biometrical Study of Heredity. Eugenics Review, 16: 189-210. (1924)

·          The Bearing of Genetics on Theories of Evolution. Science Progress, 27: 273-287 (1932)

·         The Contributions of Rothamsted to the Development of the Science of Statistics.  Annual Report Rothamsted Experimental Station, 1933, p. 43-50.

·         Uncertain Inference. Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Science, 71: 245-258 (1936)

·         Has Mendel’s Work been Rediscovered? Annals of Science, 1, 115-137, (1936)

·         The Rhesus Factor : A Study in Scientific Method. American Scientist, 35: 95-103 (1947)

·         Statistics.  In Scientific Thought in the Twentieth Century, (ed. A.E. Heath), pp. 31-55. London : Watts, 1951.

·         Natural Selection from the Genetical Standpoint. Australian Journal of Science, 22: 16-17 (1959)

In these expositions Fisher did not just re-hash old material, thus Uncertain Inference contains the first statement of the problem of the Nile.

 

ii) His technical writings seem unnecessarily difficult because important steps in the argument are often left out. His main books are almost desperately non-technical but this only perplexes the reader who tries to reconstruct the underlying mathematical argument. Thus some of his publications have been reprinted with aids for the reader.

 

The fundamental 1918 population genetics paper is reprinted with a detailed analysis in

P. A. P. Moran and C. A. B. Smith (1966) Commentary on R. A. Fisher’s Paper 'The Correlation between Relatives on the Supposition of Mendelian Inheritance’. Eugenics Laboratory Memoirs XLI, Galton Laboratory, University College London. Reviewed by K. Mather Population Studies, 20, (1967), 372-3 JSTOR and C. C. Li Quarterly Review of Biology, 42, (1967), 425-426 JSTOR.

 

Two anthologies of statistical classics reproduce some of Fisher’s writing. These have introductions and bibliographies.

·         S. Kotz  & N. L. Johnson (1992) Breakthroughs in Statistics Volumes 1 & 2, New York, Springer.

In volume 1, S. M. Geisser discusses (part of) “Mathematical Foundations of Theoretical Statistics” (1922), the great programmatic work on statistical theory. In volume 2, T. Speed discusses “The Arrangement of Field Experiments” (1926) and S. C. Pearce discusses an extract from Statistical Methods for Research Workers (1925) dealing with the analysis of variance.

·         H. A. David  & A. W. F. Edwards (2001) Annotated Readings in the History of Statistics, New York:  Springer.

Edwards discusses “Inverse Probability”, the first presentation of the fiducial argument.

 

 

Fisher’s correspondence & manuscripts

·         Fisher’s papers are in the Barr-Smith Library of the University of Adelaide. (See also Nancy Hall.) Fisher carried on an extensive correspondence from the late 1920s and letters make up the bulk of the collection, although there are some unpublished manuscripts and notes. From the list of correspondents it seems Fisher corresponded with virtually everybody. Note that much of the material is now available online. The letters in Adelaide formed the basis of the two volumes of published correspondence edited by J. H. Bennett. See below.

·         Adelaide has also issued a file of miscellaneous notes and a list of the contents of Fisher’s library.

·         University College London  (UCL) has correspondence with Gosset and Karl Pearson.

·         The National Register of Archives lists some further holdings in the UK

·         There are letters in the Hotelling papers at Columbia University

·         The American Philosophical Society Library has extensive holdings of the papers of American scientists. For Fisher the most significant collection is the Sewall Wright Papers but there is Fisher material in other collections: Milislav Demerec Papers L. C. Dunn Papers Raymond Pearl Papers Bronson Price Papers. The entries have useful biographical information on their subjects. The APS also have the papers of John Tukey but these are not yet catalogued.

 

Presumably more material will become available as the papers of those who corresponded with Fisher pass into library collections.

 

 

Published correspondence

Much valuable material has been published with useful notes by various editors.

 

·         E. S. Pearson (1968) Some Early Correspondence between W. S. Gosset, R. A. Fisher and Karl Pearson, with Notes and Comments, Biometrika, 55, 445-457. JSTOR

These letters (originals in UCL) are to or from or about Fisher in his earliest days as a statistician.

 

·         Letters from W. S. Gosset to R. A. Fisher 1915-1936: Summaries by R. A. Fisher with a Foreword by L. McMullen, printed by Arthur Guinness for private circulation and placed in a few libraries.

For Fisher’s statistical work up to the mid-30s the correspondence with Gosset (Student) is the most useful source (The originals are in UCL). There is no editorial apparatus. The second edition of 1970 has a few letters not in the first of 1962. The letters are best read in conjunction with the biographies by Box and  E. S. Pearson.

 

This selection is valuable for Fisher’s genetics in the period 1915-1938: Bennett’s introduction is an excellent guide to this side of Fisher’s work.  The correspondence with Darwin reveals more of Fisher’s feelings than the cordial but more professional correspondence with Gosset. This volume, based on Adelaide material, is also useful for Fisher’s relations with Sewall Wright and J. B. S. Haldane. Fisher’s undergraduate paper on Mendelism and Biometry is included. There are reviews by D. J. Finney Biometrics, 40, (Dec., 1984), p. 1209 JSTOR, Garland E. Allen Isis, 77, (Mar., 1986), pp. 168-169 JSTOR and A. W. F. Edwards Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, A, 150, (1987), pp. 168-169 JSTOR.

 

·          J. H. Bennett (1990) (ed) Statistical Inference and Analysis: Selected Correspondence of R. A. Fisher, Oxford, University Press.

This is based on material in Adelaide and relates to Fisher’s statistical work after 1930. The volume is a selection: many of Fisher’s correspondents are not here and not all of the letters of the correspondents who are here are included. The volume includes correspondence with the statisticians mentioned  below as well as with Darmois, Fraser, Fréchet, Savage and Tukey.  There are interesting comments on the book and on Fisher in

G. A. Barnard (1992) Review of Statistical Inference and Analysis: Selected Correspondence of R. A. Fisher (edited by J. H. Bennett). Statistical Science, 7, 5-12. JSTOR

A. P. Dempster (1991) Fisher’s Letters: Statistical Inference and Analysis. Selected Correspondence of R. A. Fisher. by R. A. Fisher; J. H. Bennett, Science New Series, 252, No. 5002, 143-144. JSTOR

A. W. F. Edwards (1991) Statistical Inference and Analysis: Selected Correspondence of R. A. Fisher. by J. H. Bennett, Biometrics, 47, 199-1200. JSTOR

A. W. Kemp (1993) Statistical Inference and Analysis: Selected Correspondence of R. A. Fisher. by R. A. Fisher; J. H. Bennett, The Statistician , 42, 75-76.  JSTOR

 

 

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Writing on Fisher

 

Writing about Fisher is not a well-defined category. Fisher was such an important figure that to write about his subjects was inevitably to write about his ideas. Modern work on the analysis of variance usually makes no direct reference to him but in the 1930s it was Fisher’s analysis of variance. Writing on other Fisher topics—particularly controversial ones like fiducial inference, the Behrens-Fisher problem or the fundamental theorem of natural selection—can be as much about Fisher as anything with his name in the title.

 

The hundreds of references below illustrate different ways of approaching Fisher. The grouping of items is rough and unsystematic; there is no category of articles taking off from Fisher as that would have produced thousands of references. The electronic format makes it easy for you to make your own specialised list: to make one on, say, the fiducial argument start by searching on fiducial.

 

 

Books on Fisher

 

There is the fine full-scale biography by Fisher’s daughter.

·         Joan Fisher Box (1978) R. A. Fisher: The Life of a Scientist, New York: Wiley. Preface

This covers both Fisher’s scientific career and his personal life. Many of those who worked with Fisher were still alive and the book makes excellent use of their recollections. The book conveys very well how Fisher saw his controversies but it is worth consulting treatments from the other side: see Fisher’s significant others. Kruskal’s review essay provides additional perspective

W. Kruskal (1980) The Significance of Fisher: A Review of R. A. Fisher: The Life of a Scientist by Joan Fisher Box, Journal of the American Statistical Association, 75, 1019-1030. JSTOR

There are less detailed reviews by Rao Mathematical Reviews, Yates Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, A, 142, (1979), 504-506 JSTOR, Finney Biometrics, 35, (1979), 357-358 JSTOR, Dempster Science, 203, No. 4380. (Feb. 9, 1979), p. 537, JSTOR, Kanji Statistician, 30, (1981), 157-158 JSTOR, Calder Statistician, 36, (1987), 60-62 JSTOR. Porter Journal of Heredity, 28, (1987), 215 here. The article “Science and Statistics” by G.E.P. Box (Joan’s husband) is an interesting companion piece to the biography.

 

There is a useful overview of Fisher’s statistical work

·         S. E. Fienberg & D. V. Hinkley (1980) (eds) R. A. Fisher: An Appreciation, New York, Springer.

This contains essays on the individual fields to which Fisher contributed. The individual essays appear below and can be found by searching for Fienberg. There is a detailed review by Oscar Kempthorne Journal of the American Statistical Association, 78, (1983), 482-490 JSTOR. This is not only an account of the book but a record of Kempthorne’s feelings about Fisher. There is a note by Seneta in Mathematical Reviews.

 

Recently three mini-symposia on Fisher have appeared. The Statistician articles were associated with the blue plaque occasion of 2002 and survey Fisher’s main activities. The IJE articles focus on smoking; see below for other articles on this theme. The “Mendel-Fisher controversy” began with Fisher’s 1936 paper Has Mendel’s work been rediscovered?; see below for other articles on this theme.

·         S. Senn, P. J. Green, M. J. R. Healy, A. W. F. Edwards, A. Grafen (2003) A Blue Plaque for Fisher, Statistician (Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, Series D), 52 (3), 297-330.

·         P. Armitage, W. Bodmer, I. Chalmers, R. Doll, H. Marks (2003) International Journal of Epidemiology, 32, (6), 922-948.

·         A. Franklin, A. W. F. Edwards, D. J. Fairbanks, D. L. Hartl, T. Seidenfeld (2008) Ending the Mendel-Fisher Controversy, University of Pittsburgh Press.

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Obituaries, memorials and reminiscences

 

Ronald Fisher has been remembered in publications ranging from The Caian, his college magazine, to the Dictionary of National Biography. The list here is arranged chronologically. 1962-7 was the time for obituaries and appreciations and 1990 was the Fisher centenary. There were no obituaries in the main genetics journals as they do not seem to have published obituaries at the time of Fisher’s death.  Except for Yates & Mather the links are to JSTOR.

The Times, London, Tuesday 31 July 1962. Anonymous, but said to be by V.B. Wigglesworth. Followed some days later by supplementary material by G.A. Barnard, Sir John Russell and C. I. Bliss. Available from St Andrews.

Sir Ronald Aylmer Fisher, 1890-1962 (in Obituary) Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. A, (1962), 125, 668. JSTOR

A. R. G. Owen (1962) An Appreciation of the Life and Work of Sir Ronald Aylmer Fisher F.R.S., F.S.S. Sc.D., Statistician, 12, 313-319. JSTOR

W. J. Youden (1962) Memorial to Sir Ronald Aylmer Fisher: 1890-1962, Journal of the American Statistical Association, 57, 727-728. JSTOR

C. D. Darlington and J. A. Fraser Roberts (1962) Sir Ronald Fisher, F.R.S., F.S.S.  Eugenics Review, 54 , (3), 120-122.

F. Yates (1962) Sir Ronald Aylmer Fisher (1890-1962) Revue de l’Institut International de Statisitique, 30, (2), 280-282.

M. Fréchet (1963) Letter to the President of the Royal Statistical Society, Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. Series A, 126, 169-170. (part of the following entry)

J. O. Irwin, G. A. Barnard, K. Mather, F. Yates, & M. J. R. Healy (1963) Sir Ronald Aylmer Fisher, 1890-1962, Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. Series A, 126, 159-178. JSTOR

M. G. Kendall (1963) Ronald Aylmer Fisher, 1890-1962, Biometrika, 50, 1-15. JSTOR,

F. Yates & K. Mather (1963) Ronald Aylmer Fisher 1890-1962, Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society, 9, 91-120.

J. Neyman. (1967) R. A. Fisher (1890-1962): An Appreciation, Science, 156, 1456-1460. JSTOR

W. G. Cochran (1967) Footnote [To Neyman 1967], Science, 156, 1460-1462. JSTOR

F. Yates (1981) Fisher, Sir Ronald Aylmer, The Dictionary of National Biography, 1961-70, ed. E. T. Williams and C. S. Nicholls, pp. 361-362, Oxford University Press.

L. L. Cavalli-Sforza (1990) Recollections of Whittingehame Lodge. Theoretical Population Biology, 38, 301-305.

C. Clarke (1990) Professor Sir Ronald Fisher, F.R.S. British Medical Journal, 301, 1446-1448.

A. W. F. Edwards (1990) Commemorative windows in Hall for John Venn and R. A. Fisher. The Caian, November 1990, Cambridge: Gonville and Caius College, 67-68.

A. W. F. Edwards (1990) R. A. Fisher, 1890-1962. XV International Biometric Conference, Budapest, 2-6 July 1990; Proceedings of Invited Papers, 3-6.

C. B. Goodhart (1990) Sir Ronald Aylmer Fisher, Sc.D., F.R.S. The Caian, November 1990, Cambridge: Gonville and Caius College, 68-73.

J. C. Gower (1990/1) Sir Ronald Aylmer Fisher 1890-1962, Mathematical Spectrum, 23, 76-86.

 

Of course many of those who knew Fisher have left more informal recollections, e.g., the cosmologist Fred Hoyle in Fisher quotations (the last one) and the mathematician Christopher Zeeman in The Linnean, 22, (2006), 10-11 recall conversations with him. There are more recollections in Nathan Keyfitz (2010) Fisher and Friends, Significance, 7, (4), 185.

 

 

Encyclopedia articles

 

Encyclopedia articles give brief surveys of Fisher and his work. They can also provide linked articles on people and/or topics associated with Fisher: in Statistics Karl Pearson, W. S. Gosset, J. Neyman, etc) and analysis of variance, fiducial inference, design of experiments, likelihood, chi-squared, information, sufficiency, ancillarity etc; in genetics/evolutionary biology Pearson, W. Bateson, Sewall Wright, J. B. S. Haldane E. B. Ford and evolution, natural selection, modern synthesis, sex ratio, … For statistics the Encyclopedia of Biostatistics and Statisticians of the Centuries have the fullest links and for biology the Encyclopedia of Life Sciences; this last has many articles on Fisher topics and Fisher people e.g. evolution, the sex-ratio, E. B. Ford, Karl Pearson and Sewall Wright

M. Ruse (2006) Fisher, Ronald Aylmer. Encyclopedia of Life Sciences, Wiley available to subscribing institutions at http://www.els.net/

N. S. Hall (2004) Fisher, Sir Ronald. Encyclopedia of Social Measurement (ed. K. Kempf-Leonard) 39-. New York: Elsevier

A. W. F. Edwards (2002) Fisher, R. A. Encyclopedia of Genetics. New York: Academic Press.

S. L. Zabell (2001) Ronald Aylmer Fisher. Statisticians of the Centuries (ed. C. C. Heyde and E. Seneta) pp. 389-397. New York: Springer.

A. W. F. Edwards (2001) Darwin and Mendel united: the contributions of Fisher, Haldane and Wright up to 1932. Encyclopedia of Genetics. London: Fitzroy Dearborn.

A. W. F. Edwards (2001) Ronald A. Fisher. International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioural Sciences. Kidlington, Oxford: Pergamon.

J. F. Box & A. W. F. Edwards (1998) Fisher, Ronald Aylmer. Encyclopedia of Biostatistics 2, 1523-1529. Chichester: Wiley.

J. F. Box (1997) Fisher, Ronald Aylmer, Leading Personalities in Statistical Sciences from the Seventeenth Century to the Present, 99-108. New York: Wiley.

A. W. F. Edwards (1987) Fisher, Ronald Aylmer. The New Palgrave: A Dictionary of Economics, London : Macmillan, Volume II, 376-377.

J. F. Box (1982) Fisher, Ronald Aylmer, Encyclopedia of Statistical Science, 3, 103-111. New York: Wiley.

M. S. Bartlett (1978) Fisher, R. A., International Encyclopedia of Statistics, 1, 352-358. New York: Free Press.

N. T. Gridgeman (1972) Fisher, R. A., Dictionary of Scientific Biography, 5, 7-11.

 

 

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Fisher in histories

 

Fisher’s work is discussed in histories of the various fields to which he contributed. See the following.

 

·         A. Hald (1998) A History of Mathematical Statistics from 1750 to 1930. New York: Wiley.

This is a detailed technical history. Despite the title it extends beyond 1930 to cover most of Fisher’s work.

 

·         A. Hald (2007) A History of Parametric Statistical Inference from Bernoulli to Fisher, 1713-1935. New York: Springer.

This is essentially a second edition of part of Hald’s 1998 book.

 

·         G. Gigerenzer, Z. Switjink, T. Porter, L. Daston & L. Kruger (1989) The Empire of Chance, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Fisher is a major twentieth century presence in this general history of probability and statistics.

 

·         J. W. Tankard (1984) The Statistical Pioneers, Cambridge, MA: Schenkman.

Essentially a collection of biographies with a chapter on Fisher.

 

·         H. O. Lancaster (1969) The Chi-squared Distribution, New York: Wiley.

A historically informed monograph on a subject to which Fisher made important contributions.

 

·         D. A. MacKenzie (1981) Statistics in Britain 1865-1930: the Social Construction of Scientific Knowledge, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

A sociology of science perspective on Statistics, Genetics and Eugenics with a chapter on Fisher’s work.

 

·         W. B. Provine (1971) The Origins of Theoretical Population Genetics. University of Chicago Press.

The final chapter of this history ends considers the work of Fisher and his contemporaries.

 

·         E. Mayr (1982) The Growth of Biological Thought: Diversity, Evolution and Inheritance, Cambridge MA.,  Bellknap Press.

Mayr did not appreciate Fisher and this book of nearly 1000 pages devotes only a page or so to him.

 

·         Garland E. Allen (1988) Bibliographic Essays: Life Sciences in the Twentieth Century.

 

There are several essays on Fisher; they appear below and can be found by searching on Sarkar.

 

·         J. Gayon (1998) Darwinism’s Struggle for Survival: Heredity and the Hypothesis of Natural Selection, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

An account of evolutionary theory from Darwin to the Modern Synthesis. There is a review by Michael R. Rose (2001)
Once More with Feeling. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 14 (3), 519-519.

 

·         Stephen Jay Gould (2002) The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, Cambridge MA.: Belknap Press.

This is a personal interpretation of the present-day state of the subject but it contains plenty of history.

 

This history of the British Eugenics movement has a chapter on Fisher.  

 

Russell brought Fisher to Rothamsted. His book emphasises the role of Rothamsted in the development of agricultural science in Britain. Russell himself is the subject of

H. G. Thornton (1966) Sir Edward John Russell, Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society, 12, 457-477.

 

·         J. C. Gower, J. C. (1988) Statistics and Agriculture, Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, A, 151, 179-200. JSTOR

A survey of the British scene from the end of the 18th century.

 

·         Anthony C. Atkinson & R. A. Bailey (2001) One Hundred Years of the Design of Experiments On and Off the Pages of Biometrika, Biometrika, 88, 53-97.

Because Fisher boycotted Biometrika after 1918 (biographical sketch) his presence in this history is strictly “off the page”.

 

Many of the technical terms in modern Statistics came from Fisher. See

·         David, H. A. First (?) Occurrence of Common Terms in Statistics and Probability, Appendix B and pp. 219-228 of H. A. David & A. W. F. Edwards (ed) (2001) Annotated Readings in the History of Statistics, Springer New York.

·         Or search for Fisher in Jeff Miller’s Earliest known uses of some of the words of mathematics and Earliest uses of symbols in probability and statistics pages. Many of the entries have links to the papers where Fisher first used the terms.

·         There is an account of how Fisher transformed Karl Pearson’s statistical language in

J. Aldrich (2003) The Language of the English Biometric School, International Statistical Review, 71, 109-131.

 

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Fisher in textbooks

 

Modern statistics textbooks refer to the “Fisher exact test”, “Fisher information”, etc. but they rarely indicate the depth and breadth of his contribution. Some contributions were so fundamental that they are invisible and not attributed to him or indeed to anybody.

 

M. Ezekiel’s Methods of Correlation Analysis (1930) was perhaps the first textbook to give prominence to Fisher’s ideas. Snedecor’s textbook was very widely used while Mather’s carried an endorsement from Fisher. 

·         George W. Snedecor (1937) Statistical Methods Applied to Experiments in Agriculture and Biology, Ames, Iowa: Collegiate Press.

·         K. Mather (1943) Statistical Analysis in Biology, London: Methuen.

Cramér’s synthesis puts Fisher’s contribution alongside that of others and so provides some perspective on it

·         H. Cramér (1946) Mathematical Methods of Statistics, Princeton University Press, London.

There are frequent references to Fisher’s ideas on inference in

D. R. Cox & D. V. Hinkley (1974) Theoretical Statistics, London: Chapman & Hall.

 

In biology Fisher does figure in some modern textbooks 

 

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Fisher & other scientists

Fisher was involved with other scientists in a variety of ways. Of course the categories are not mutually exclusive, though there do not seem to have been cases of co-authors and students becoming enemies.

See Box for information on many of these and their work with Fisher. There are additional references below.  Russell’s history is useful for Fisher’s Rothamsted collaborators. An early Rothamsted collaborator was H. G. Thornton, the chief bacteriologist

P.S Nutman. (1977) Sir Henry Gerard Thornton, Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society, 23, 557-574.

·         Enemies In his obituary piece in The Times Barnard wrote “his devotion to scientific truth being literally passionate, he was an implacable enemy of those whom who judged guilty of propagating error.” There were serious breaches with Karl Pearson, Sewall Wright and Jerzy Neyman amongst others. See below.

·         Students both formal and informal. See below.

·         Friends. From Barnard in The Times again, “He was capable of tremendous charm and warmth in friendship.” One important friendship outside of the usual colleague/student pattern was that with Mahalanobis. Their relationship was like that between friendly potentates. P. C. Mahalonobis (1893-1972) was a physicist turned statistician who set up the Indian Statistical Institute in 1931. He and Fisher made contact in the 1920s and Fisher became an important ally in establishing Statistics in India. Their friendship is discussed by  Box and also by

A. Rudra (1996) Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis:  A Biography, Oxford University Press, Delhi.

P. C. Mahalanobis (1964) Some Personal Memories of R. A. Fisher, Biometrics, 20, 368-371. JSTOR

 

 

 

Fisher’s significant others

 

Some relationships were of such importance in the history of 20th century Statistics and Genetics and/or in Fisher’s life that they have their own literatures. The relationship with Leonard Darwin was an important personal relationship. The relationships with the others reflect Fisher’s changing position, as he got older and his authority increased. Pearson and Gosset were his significant seniors, Wright was a contemporary while Fisher was the significant senior for Neyman and Jeffreys.

 

Someone who belongs here is E. S. Pearson. However, Fisher saw Egon Pearson as a proxy, first for his father, Karl Pearson, and then for his collaborator Jerzy Neyman. Some of the material under Neyman is useful for Fisher’s relations with ESP but the best source is Pearson’s biography of Student. The reviews Pearson wrote of the first two editions of Fisher’s Statistical Methods for Research Workers drew replies from Fisher.

 

Fisher and Karl Pearson see  biographical sketch  

In 1912 Karl Pearson (1857-1936) St Andrews dominated Statistics and Biometry but by the end of the 20s Fisher had replaced him as the leader in both subjects. On Fisher’s death Fréchet wrote, “Les statisticiens du monde entier savent quelle dette ils doivent à l’école statistique brittanique, et en particulier, aux deux grands savants, qui ont, l’un créé, l’autre transformé le statistique mathématique, Karl Pearson et Sir Ronald Fisher” (1963). However, it is clear from Fisher’s Statistics and his  Statistical Methods and Scientific Inference that Pearson was no “grand savant” for him.

 

Personal relations between the men began to be cold from 1917, when Fisher felt Pearson had treated him badly, and Fisher was still expressing bitterness twenty years after Pearson’s death. Fisher’s contempt for Pearson found expression in some unlikely ways, e.g. in his celebration of the work of Pearson’s contemporary W. F. Sheppard. The rift occurred at a critical point in Fisher's career but it was less vital for Pearson and there is more on the relationship in Box  than in either of the Pearson biographies. E. S. Pearson was reticent on the relationship, because the events were too recent and the people too close, and, though Porter has some discussion, he is more interested in earlier formative events in his subject’s life.

Egon S. Pearson (1936/8) Karl Pearson: An Appreciation of Some Aspects of his Life and Work, In Two Parts, Biometrika, 28, 193-257, 29, 161-247. JSTOR, JSTOR (Published as a book by Cambridge University Press, in 1938.)

Theodore M. Porter (2004) Karl Pearson: the Scientific Life in a Statistical Age. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press

 

Pearson (1968) contains important documents and a valuable commentary. Other general discussions include:

A. W. F. Edwards (1994) R. A. Fisher on Karl Pearson, Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London, 48, 97-106. JSTOR

S. Sarkar (1995) J. B. S. Haldane and R. A. Fisher’s Draft Life of Karl Pearson, Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London, 49,119-124. JSTOR

Fisher’s letters to Pearson from 1933 to -35 are available on the Adelaide correspondence site.

 

There were many points at issue between Fisher and Pearson. On the genetic side see Provine and

B. Norton and Pearson, E. S. (1976) A Note on the Background to and Refereeing of R. A. Fisher’s 1918 Paper 'The Correlation between Relatives on the Supposition of Mendelian inheritance’. Notes & Records of the Royal Society of London, 31, 151-62. JSTOR

Fisher (1918) reconciled Mendelism and Biometry. Morrison tries to identify the assumptions behind Fisher’s reconciliation and those behind Pearson’s rejection of reconciliation.

M. Morrison (2002) Modelling Populations: Pearson and Fisher on Mendelism and Biometry, British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 53, 39-698.

 

On the statistical side see Hald, Lancaster (1969), Aldrich (1997) and Stigler (2005) as well as

S. E. Fienberg (1980) Fisher’s Contribution to Categorical Data, pp. 75-84 in Fienberg & Hinkley.

R. Mensch (1980) Fisher and the Method of Moments, pp. 67-74 in Fienberg & Hinkley.

D. Baird (1983) The Fisher/Pearson Chi-Squared Controversy: A Turning Point for Inductive Inference, British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 34, 105-118. JSTOR

H. F. Inman (1994) Karl Pearson and R. A. Fisher on Statistical Tests: A 1935 Exchange from Nature, American Statistician, 48, 2-11. JSTOR

 

For more on Pearson see Karl Pearson: A Reader’s Guide. 2007 is the sesquicentenary of Pearson’s birth and the anniversary will doubtless generate discussion of the relationship between  Pearson and Fisher.

 

 

Fisher and Leonard Darwin  see  biographical sketch  

L. H. Darwin (1850–1943) had a strong influence on Fisher and on the course of his career. From Box‘s account he was like a surrogate father. Darwin was honorary president of the Eugenics Education Society (see Mazumdar) when he and Fisher met. Although Darwin was not a scientist, Fisher discussed scientific questions with him: their letters are reprinted (with notes) in Bennett and copies of the originals are available on the web. The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection is dedicated to him: “In gratitude for the encouragement, given to the author, during the last fifteen years, by discussing many of the problems dealt with in this book.” The versatile Major Darwin—after retiring from the Royal Engineers he campaigned for bimetallism—was remembered in the obituary pages of the Economic Journal by J. M. Keynes and his sister-in-law Margaret Keynes, who was Darwin’s niece

Obituary (in Notes and Memoranda) Economic Journal, 53, 438-448 (1943) JSTOR

Another niece, Gwen Raverat, has a portrait of Uncle Lenny in

Gwen Raverat (1952) Period Piece: A Cambridge Childhood, London: Faber & Faber.

See also

A. W. F. Edwards (2004) Leonard Darwin New Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

 

Fisher and ‘Student’ (W. S. Gosset)  see  biographical sketch  

Of the older statisticians the most sympathetic to Fisher was W. S. Gosset (1876-1937) St. Andrews; their relationship can be followed through the Letters. Their one public disagreement was about randomisation in experiments. Fisher greatly admired ‘Student’ (see the obituary) and gave him generous credit: ‘Student’s’ work had effected a “logical revolution”. The modest Gosset thought that “Fisher would have discovered it all anyway.” Their relationship is discussed by Box,  Pearson (1968), and by

E. S. Pearson (1990) ‘Student’, A Statistical Biography of William Sealy Gosset, Edited and Augmented by R. L. Plackett with the Assistance of G. A. Barnard, Oxford: University Press.

There is a brief account of how Fisher transformed Student’s z-test into the modern t-test in the entry on Student’s t distribution on the Earliest known uses of some of the words of mathematics. There are several articles on the subject, including.

C. Eisenhart (1979) On the Transition from `Students’ z to `Students’ t, American Statistician, 33, 6-10. JSTOR

J. F. Box (1981) Gosset, Fisher and the t Distribution, American Statistician, 35, 61-66. JSTOR

J. F. Box (1987) Guinness, Gosset, Fisher, and Small Samples, Statistical Science, 2, 45-52. JSTOR

S. Senn and Richardson, W. (1994) The First t-test, Statistics in Medicine 13, 785–803.

E. L. Lehmann (1999) “Student” and Small-Sample Theory, Statistical Science, 14, 418-426.

Lehmann’s article also considers the disagreement between Fisher and Gosset over robustness, occasioned by E. S. Pearson’s review of the 2nd edition of Fisher’s Statistical Methods for Research Workers. Their disagreement over randomization is considered by Senn.

S. Senn (2004) Added Values: Controversies concerning Randomization and Additivity in Clinical Trials, Statistics in Medicine 13, 3729–3753.

After Gosset’s death Egon Pearson wrote a fine memoir and organised an edition of his papers:

E. S. Pearson (1939) “Student” as Statistician, Biometrika, 30, 210-250.

‘Student’s’ Collected Papers (edited by E.S. Pearson and John Wishart, with a foreword by Launce McMullen. 1942. London: Biometrika Office.

This publication of the Papers provided an opportunity to review Student’s contribution: see the reviews by Cochran Annals of Mathematical Statistics, 15, (1944), 435-438 JSTOR and Isserlis Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, 106, (1943), 278-279 JSTOR.

The Collected Papers volume does not contain Gosset’s review of Statistical Methods for Research Workers

Student (1926) Review of Statistical Methods for Research Workers  (R. A. Fisher) Eugenics Review, 18, 148-150.

 

2008 was the centenary of Student’s paper on “the probable error of a mean” and the anniversary is being remembered in journals and at conferences. The relationship between Student and Fisher is certain to get some attention. So far, see

J. A. Hanley, M. Julien & E. E. M. Moodie (2008) t Distribution Centennial: Student’s z, t, and s: What if Gosset had R? American Statistician, 62, 64-69.

S. Senn (2008) A Century of t-tests, Significance, 5, 37-39.

S. L. Zabell (2008) On Student's 1908 paper “The probable error of a mean,” with comments by S. M. Stigler, J. Aldrich, A. W. F. Edwards, E. Seneta, P. Diaconis & E. L. Lehmann and rejoinder from Zabell, Journal of the American Statistical Association, 103, 1-20.

 

Ziliak and McCloskey, in their polemic against significance testing, cast Gosset as hero and Fisher as villain and emphasise the differences between them.

S. T. Ziliak and D. N. McCloskey (2008) The Cult of Statistical Significance: How the Standard Error Costs Us Jobs, Justice, and Lives, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

The book is attracting attention and is being widely reviewed.

A. Spanos (2008) Review of Stephen Ziliak and Deirdre McCloskey’s The Cult of Statistical Significance: How the Standard Error Costs Us Jobs, Justice, and Lives, Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics, 1, (1). PDF . With reply by Ziliak and McCloskey. PDF

T. M. Porter (2008) Signifying Little, Science, 320, (June), 1292.

 

 

 

Fisher and Sewall Wright  see biographical sketch and correspondence

In the 1920s Fisher and Wright (1889-1988) (NAS Genetics student's appreciation) seemed to be doing parallel work on evolutionary biology. Later, however, the agreements seemed to count less than the differences. The “controversy” between them was set off by Fisher and Ford (1947).  Box has some discussion of the relationship between Fisher and Wright. Bennett reproduces their correspondence and provides a commentary on it; a few of the letters are reproduced on the Adelaide correspondence site. The most thorough treatment of the relationship is in Provine’s biography of Wright. Crow has given a shorter account of Wright’s work:

W. B. Provine (1986) Sewall Wright and Evolutionary Biology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

J. F. Crow (1990) Sewall Wright's Place in Twentieth-century Biology, Journal of the History of Biology, 23, 57-89.

There are several articles on the controversy.

W. B. Provine (1985) The R. A. Fisher - Sewall Wright Controversy. Oxford Surveys in Evolutionary Biology, 2, (ed. R. Dawkins & M. Ridley), 197-219. Oxford University Press. (reprinted in Sarkar (1992)).

A. W. F. Edwards (1987) Evolution and Optimization. Nature, 326, 10.

A. W. F. Edwards (1987) What Fisher Meant. Nature, 329, 10.

M. J. S. Hodge (1992) Biology and Philosophy (including Ideology): a Study of Fisher and Wright. In Sarkar (1992), 231-293.

R. A. Skipper (2002) The Persistence of the R.A. Fisher-Sewall Wright Controversy, Biology and Philosophy, 17, 341-367. pdf

A. Plutynski (2005), Parsimony in the Fisher-Wright Debate, Biology and Philosophy, 20, 697-713.

 

Fisher and Harold Jeffreys

Around 1930 Harold Jeffreys (1891-1989) geophysicist and applied mathematician began applying his version of the Bayesian argument to statistics. Fisher (1932) pounced on him for perpetrating a “howler”. Lane describes the 1932-4 dispute, Howie places it in the intellectual biographies of the protagonists and in the conflict between alternative conceptions of probability, while Aldrich (2004) is a quick survey; Aldrich (2005) gives an account of Jeffreys’s statistical career. Fisher and Jeffreys never agreed about the validity of the Bayesian approach but their relationship mellowed into one of relaxed toleration. Their developing relationship can be followed in the letters in Bennett (1990); the letters are reproduced on the Adelaide correspondence site. There are more personal memories in Swirles and Box.  Aldrich (2002) tells a little of how Jeffreys translated Fisher’s ideas into Bayesian terms.

David A. Lane (1980), Fisher, Jeffreys and the Nature of Probability, pp. 148-160 in Fienberg & Hinkley.

Harold Jeffreys (1974) Fisher and Inverse Probability, International Statistical Review, 42, 1-3.

David Howie (2002) Interpreting Probability: Controversies and Developments in the Early Twentieth Century, New York, Cambridge University Press.

John Aldrich (2004) Harold Jeffreys and R. A. Fisher, ISBA Bulletin, 11, (June), 7-9.

John Aldrich (2005) The Statistical Education of Harold Jeffreys, International Statistical Review, 73, 289-307.

Bertha Swirles (Lady Jeffreys) (1991) Harold Jeffreys: Some Reminiscences, Chance, 4, 22-26.

John Aldrich (2002) How Likelihood and Identification went Bayesian, International Statistical Review, 70, 79-98.

 

See also Zabell  (1992),  Barnard (1992) and Aldrich (2008).

For more on Jeffreys and the controversy see Harold Jeffreys as Statistician.

 

Fisher and Jerzy Neyman  see  biographical sketch  

The influence of J. Neyman (1894-1981) (NAS  ASA  St Andrews) on research in statistical theory began to rival Fisher’s in the late 1930s and possibly surpass it in the 40s and 50s. At first Neyman and Fisher were on good terms, personal and professional, (see the letters in Bennett and two in facsimile) but from 1935 Fisher was an outspoken critic of Neyman’s work on experiments and of the Neyman-Pearson test theory. Another locus of disagreement was Fisher’s fiducial limits and Neyman’s confidence intervals, which turned not to be different ways of expressing the same idea.  Box describes the Fisher-Neyman relationship from Fisher’s side and Reid from Neyman’s

 Constance Reid (1982) Neyman—from Life, New York: Springer.

The reviews include: Barnard Biometrics 39, (Dec., 1983), 1121, JSTOR; David Journal of the American Statistical Association, 79, (Sep., 1984), 728-729,  JSTOR; Hogg College Mathematics Journal, 15, (Jan., 1984), 82-84, JSTOR;  Kotz American Mathematical Monthly, 92, (Mar., 1985), 219-223,  JSTOR.  Efron Science, New Series, 220, (May, 1983), 827-828,  JSTOR, has most to say about the scientific issues at stake while Yates Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, A, 147, (No. 1 1984), 116-118, JSTOR has most to say about the Fisher-Neyman relationship (from Fisher’s point of view).

 

For a time Fisher and Neyman were both teaching at UCL. Churchill Eisenhart (1913-1994), a Neyman student who attended Fisher’s lectures, left a vivid account of the conflicts involved in

Ingram Olkin (1992) A Conversation with Churchill Eisenhart. Statistical Science, 7, 514-5. JSTOR

Neyman gave his own account of his relations with Fisher

J. Neyman (1961) The Silver Jubilee of My Dispute with Fisher, Journal of the Operations Research Society of Japan, 3, 145-154. 

Neyman gave an overall judgement of Fisher’s work when he reviewed the Contributions volume

J. Neyman (1951) Fisher’s Collected Papers: Contributions to Mathematical Statistics, Scientific Monthly, 72, No. 6, 406-408.  JSTOR

Fisher answered Neyman’s accusations that he had not acted in “good faith” in a letter to P. H. H. (Horace) Gray. Neyman wrote a second assessment after Fisher’s death: Neyman (1967). Fisher thought of Neyman as a meddling mathematician with no experience of science and criticised him in the JRSSB (1955) article “Statistical Methods and Scientific Induction” (JSTOR) and in  Statistical Methods and Scientific Inference.

Fienberg and Tanur consider parallels and divergences in the work of Fisher and Neyman on experiments and surveys

S. E. Fienberg  & J. M. Tanur (1996) Reconsidering the Fundamental Contributions of Fisher and Neyman on Experimentation and Sampling. International Statistical Review 64, 237-253.

Lehmann considers the compatibility of the Fisher and Neyman views of testing in

E. L. Lehmann (1993) The Fisher, Neyman-Pearson Theories of Testing Hypotheses: One Theory or Two? Journal of the American Statistical Association, 88, 1242-1249. JSTOR

See also Hacking  (1965),  Zabell  (1992) and  Aldrich  (2000).

Senn considers their dispute over additivity in the analysis of variance:

S. Senn (2004) Added Values: Controversies concerning Randomization and Additivity in Clinical Trials, Statistics in Medicine 13, 3729–3753.

 

 

 

Fisher’s significance for others

 

Fisher was significant for everyone who came into Statistics in the English-speaking world—at least—in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s. The case of Jimmie Savage was typical: he learnt the subject from Fisher’s Statistical Methods for Research Workers and he later met and corresponded with Fisher. See Rereading Fisher.

 

The writings listed here relate to individuals who knew Fisher and for whom Fisher was an important part of their story—mainly students and junior colleagues. They are prominent in the ranks of the authors of Obituaries   Fisher lectures  Papers on genetics   Papers on statistics.

 

In Statistics

Few people learnt Statistics from Fisher—at least in the conventional way. Rothamsted was a research station and Fisher was professor of genetics in London and in Cambridge. At Rothamsted there were research students—Winifred Mackenzie, his computing assistant and co-author, was one and F. E. (Betty) Allan CSIRO another—and “voluntary workers” such as Harold Hotelling (1895-1973); see Hotelling’s review of SMRW. Fisher’s Rothamsted appointments, J. O. Irwin (1898-1982), J. Wishart (1898-1956) and F. Yates (1902-1994), learnt the Fisher approach by working with him. In 1931 Wishart moved to Cambridge taking Fisher’s ideas with him, influencing amongst others Jeffreys, M. S. Bartlett (1910-2002) and W. G. Cochran (1909-1980). When Fisher became professor at University College he did not move house and he was still a presence at Rothamsted when Yates took over the Statistics department. Oscar Kempthorne (1919-2000) was there in the early 40s. Important American contacts included Hotelling and George W. Snedecor (1881-1974) who invited Fisher to Iowa State. W. J. Youden (1900-1971), E. A. Cornish (1909-1973) and M. M. Barnard CSIRO studied with Fisher in London. In France Georges Darmois was an early exponent of Fisherian statistics and his student Daniel Dugué spent time with Fisher; for the French statisticians see Aldrich (2010). Georg Rasch took Fisher’s ideas to Denmark. C. R. Rao (b. 1920) was Fisher’s only Cambridge PhD student in Statistics, going to Fisher after he had published the Cramér-Rao and Rao-Blackwell theorems! In the 1950s Fisher welcomed anyone like D. A. Sprott (b. 1930) who was not “wholly sold on the Neyman-Pearson approach”. Of the people who never worked with Fisher, G. A. Barnard (1915-2002) was probably the closest to him; their friendship began in the late 40s after Barnard had conceded to Fisher after initially disagreeing with him over testing in the 2X2 table.

 

E. S. Pearson (1957) John Wishart 1898-1956, Biometrika, 44, 1-8. JSTOR

D. J. Finney (1995) Frank Yates, Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society of London, 41, 554-573.

Healy  (1995) on Yates.

W. L. Smith (1978) Harold Hotelling 1895-1973, Annals of Statistics, 6, 1173-1183. JSTOR

K. J. Arrow & E. L. Lehmann (2005) Harold Hotelling 1895-1973, National Academy of Sciences, 87, 1-15.  

Gertrude M. Cox; Paul G. Homeyer  (1975) Professional and Personal Glimpses of George W. Snedecor, Biometrics, 31, 265-301.  JSTOR

P. A. P. Moran memoir of E. A. Cornish for the Australian Academy of Science.

E. B. Andersen (1982) Georg Rasch (1901–1980), Psychometrika, 47, (4), 375-376.

J. Olsen Essays on Georg Rasch and his Contributions to Statistics, Ph.D. thesis, Institute of Economics, University of Copenhagen. Extract.

P. Deheuvels (1990) Daniel Dugué, Journal of the Royal Statistical Society A, 153, 99-100. JSTOR

M. H. DeGroot (1988) A Conversation with George A. Barnard, Statistical Science, 3, 196-212.  JSTOR

D. V. Lindley (2003) Professor George A. Barnard (1915-2002), The Statistician, 52, 231-234.

M. H. DeGroot (1987) A Conversation with C. R. Rao, Statistical Science, 3, 53-67.  JSTOR

A. K. Bera (2003) The ET Interview: Professor C. R. Rao, Econometric Theory, 19, 331-400. ET Interview: C. R. Rao.

For Bartlett see

I. Olkin (1989) A Conversation with Maurice Bartlett, Statistical Science, 4, 151-163. JSTOR

J. Gani (ed) (1982) The Making of Statisticians, New York: Springer-Verlag.

The Gani volume also has an autobiography by D. J. Finney who was at Rothamsted in the Yates era.

Darmois, Irwin, Hotelling and Snedecor are in the Statisticians of the Centuries volume. The people mentioned in this section appear among Fisher’s correspondents in Bennett (1990), though some, like, Yates saw him so often they did not really need letters. 

 

In Biology

In biology Fisher’s most important collaborator was E. B. Ford (Papers in the Bodleian). Their partnership began when Fisher was at Rothamsted and Ford was an undergraduate at Oxford; their correspondence is available online. When Ford published his Ecological Genetics soon after Fisher’s death, he looked back on their partnership and dedicated the book to Fisher’s memory. There is some relevant literature in the section on Sewall Wright. In London and Cambridge Fisher headed genetics departments. These were small departments and Fisher’s influence on their members was strong. Amongst the staff and students in these departments were C. Bliss,  J. H. Bennett, W. Bodmer, L. L. Cavalli-Sforza, A. W. F. Edwards, W. D. (Bill) Hamilton, Mary Lyon, K. Mather, A. R. G. Owen, R. R. Race, G. L. Taylor…. There is not as much bio- and autobiographical material as in Statistics but see the following memoirs:

E. B. Ford (2005) R. A. Fisher: An Appreciation, Genetics, 171, 415-417.  Genetics. (See also Box (2005))

B. Clarke (1995) Edmund Brisco Ford, Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society, 41, 147-168.

Joe Cain (2001) Ford, Edmund Brisco, Encyclopedia of Life Sciences available to subscribing institutions at http://www.els.net/

D. Lewis (1992) Sir Kenneth Mather, Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society, 38, 249-266.

C. Clarke (1985) Robert Russell Race, Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society, 31, 445-492.

J. Cullen (1995) Sir George Taylor, Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society, 41, 459-469.

Witness Seminar (Oral History); The Rhesus Factor and Disease Prevention (2003).

 

See the Bill Hamilton website for evidence of Fisher’s influence on him. See also A. Grafen (2004) Willam Donald Hamilton,. Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society, 50, 109-132. here

 

_____________________________________________________

 

 

 

Papers on Statistics see also Pearson  Student  Neyman   Jeffreys  Fisher lectures

Apart from the Mahalanobis 1938 biography and the 1951 anniversary pieces for the publication of the Statistical Methods for Research Workers, all the articles date from after Fisher’s death. A few are modern treatments of Fisher topics. The links are mostly to JSTOR. Usually the papers’ titles are self-explanatory but it may help to know that Bennett (1991) about smoking and Senn (1994) about randomisation.

Aldrich, J. (1997) R. A. Fisher and the Making of Maximum Likelihood 1912-22, Statistical Science, 12, 162-176. JSTOR

Aldrich, J. (2000) Fisher’s “Inverse Probability” of 1930, International Statistical Review, 68, 155-172. pdf

Aldrich, J. (2003) The Language of the English Biometric School, International Statistical Review, 71, 109-131. pdf

Aldrich, J. (2005) Fisher and Regression, Statistical Science, 20, 401-417. pdf

Aldrich, J. (2007) Information and Economics in Fisher’s Design of Experiments, International Statistical Review, 75, 131-149. pdf

Aldrich, J. (2008) R. A. Fisher on Bayes and Bayes’ Theorem, Bayesian Analysis, 3, 161-170.  here

Aldrich, J. (2008) Keynes among the Statisticians, History of Political Economy, 40, 265-316. pdf

Aldrich, J. (2009) Burnside’s Engagement with the “Modern Theory of Statistics”.  Archive for History of Exact Sciences, 63 (1), 51-79. pdf

Aldrich, J. (2009) England and Continental Probability in the Inter-War Years Journal Electronique d'Histoire des Probabilités et de la Statistique December, pp. 24.

Aldrich, J. (2010) The Econometricians’ Statisticians 1895-1945. History of Political Economy, 42, (1), 111-154. pdf

Aldrich, J. (2010) Tales of Two Societies: London and Paris 1860-1940 Journal Electronique d'Histoire des Probabilités et de la Statistique December, pp.41.

Armate, M. (1988) La construction des notions d'estimation et de vraisemblance chez Ronald A. Fisher, Journal de la Société statistique de Paris, 129, (1-2), 69-96.

Armitage, Peter (2003) Fisher, Bradford Hill, and Randomization, International Journal of Epidemiology, 32, 925-928. 

Barnard, G. A. (1987) R. A. Fisher—A True Bayesian? International Statistical Review, 55, 183-189.

Barnard, G. A. (1990) Fisher: a Retrospective (with discussion), Chance, 3, 22-32.

Barnard, G. A. (1995) Pivotal Models and the Fiducial Argument, International Statistical Review, 63, 309-323.

Barnard, G. A. & D. A. Sprott (1983) The Generalised Problem of the Nile: Robust Confidence Sets for Parametric Functions, Annals of Statistics, 11, 104-113. JSTOR

Basu, D. (1980) Randomization Analysis of Experimental Data: The Fisher Randomization Test, (with discussion by D. V. Hinkley, O. Kempthorne, D. A. Lane, D. V. Lindley and D. B. Rubin) Journal of the American Statistical Association, 75, 575-595. JSTOR

Bennett, J. H. (1991) R. A. Fisher and the Role of a Statistical Consultant, Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. Series A, 154, 443-445. JSTOR

Bingham, C. (1980) Distribution on the Sphere, pp. 171-181 of Fienberg & Hinkley.

Bliss, C. I. (1964) R. A. Fisher’s Contribution to Medicine and Bioassay, Biometrics, 20, 273-285. JSTOR

Bodmer, Walter (2003) RA Fisher, statistician and geneticist extraordinary: a personal view, International Journal of Epidemiology, 32, 938-942.

Box, J. F. (1980) Fisher: the Early Years, pp. 35-45 of Fienberg & Hinkley.

Box, J. F. (1980) R. A. Fisher and the Design of Experiments, 1922-26, American Statistician, 34, 1-7. JSTOR

Box, J. F. (2005) A Reminiscence of R. A. Fisher, American Statistician, 59, 312-314. (See also Ford (2005))

Buehler, R. (1980) Fiducial Inference, pp. 109-118 of Fienberg & Hinkley.

Chalmers, Iain (2003) Fisher and Bradford Hill: theory and pragmatism? International Journal of Epidemiology, 32, 922-924.

Clarke, C. (1991) Invited Commentary on R. A. Fisher, American Journal of Epidemiology, 134, 1371-1374.

Cochran, W. G. (1980) Fisher and the Analysis of Variance, pp. 17-34 of Fienberg & Hinkley.

Cook, R. D. (1980) Smoking and Lung Cancer, pp. 182-191 of Fienberg & Hinkley.

Conniffe, D. (1992) Keynes on Probability and Statistical Inference and the Links to Fisher, Cambridge Journal of Economics, 16, 475-489.

Cornish, E. A. (1964) Fisher’s Activities in Australia 1958-62, Biometrics, 20, 372-373. JSTOR

Cox, N. J. (2008) Speaking Stata: Correlation with confidence, or Fisher's z revisited, Stata Journal, 8, 413-439.

Das Gupta, S. (1980) Distribution of the Correlation Coefficient, pp. 9-16 of Fienberg & Hinkley.

Das Gupta, S. (1980) Discriminant Analysis, pp. 9-16 of Fienberg & Hinkley.

Dawid, A. P. (1991) Fisherian Inference in Likelihood and Prequential Frames of Reference (with discussion), Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, Series B, 53,79-109. JSTOR

Denis, D. J. (2004) The Modern Testing Hybrid: R. A. Fisher's Fading Influence, with dicussion by  Amatte, Bru, Gill, Kwan, Friendly, Lecoutre, Poitevineau, Lecoutre, Stigler and reply from Denis, Journal de la Société de Francaise de Statistique, 145, 5-68.

Doll, Richard (2003) Fisher and Bradford Hill: their personal impact, International Journal of Epidemiology, 32, 929-931.  

Edwards, A. W. F. (1978) R. A. Fisher’s Work on Statistical Inference. In I fondamenti dell’inferenza statistica. Firenze: Parente, 117-124. Reprinted in A. W. F. Edwards (1992) Likelihood. Expanded edition.

Edwards, A.W.F. (1993) Galton, Karl Pearson and modern statistical theory. In Sir Francis Galton F.R.S. - The Legacy of his Ideas, ed. M. Keynes, 91-107. London: Macmillan.

Edwards, A.W.F. (1993) John Venn and R. A. Fisher. The Caian, November 1993, 64-66.

Edwards, A. W. F. (1996) The Early History of the Statistical Estimation of Linkage, Annals of Human Genetics, 60, 237-249.

Edwards, A.W.F. (1997) Three Early Papers on Efficient Parametric Estimation. Statistical Science 12, 35-47. JSTOR

Edwards, A. W. F. (1997) What Did Fisher Mean by `Inverse Probability’ in 1912-22?, Statistical Science, 12, 177-184. JSTOR

Edwards, A. W. F (2005) “R. A. Fisher, Statistical Methods for Research Workers, 1925” in I. Grattan-Guinness (ed) Landmark Writings in Western Mathematics : Case Studies, 1640-1940, Amsterdam: Elsevier.

Efron, B. & D. V. Hinkley (1978) Assessing the Accuracy of the Maximum Likelihood Estimator: Observed Versus Expected Fisher Information, Biometrika, 65, 457-482.

Fienberg, S.E. (1980) Fisher's Contributions to the Analysis of Categorical Data, pp. 75-84 of Fienberg & Hinkley. 

Fienberg, S.E. (1997)  Introduction to R. A. Fisher on Inverse Probability and Likelihood. Statistical Science 12, 161. JSTOR

Finney, D. J. (1964) Sir Ronald Fisher’s Contribution to Biometric Statistics, Biometrics, 20, 322-329. JSTOR

Geisser, S. (1980) Basic Theory of the 1922 Mathematical Statistics Paper, pp. 59-66 of Fienberg & Hinkley.

Gower, J. C. (1990) Fisher’s Optimal Scores and Multiple Correspondence Analysis. Biometrics, 46, 947-961. JSTOR

Hald, A (1999) On the History of Maximum Likelihood in Relation to Inverse Probability and Least Squares, Statistical Science, 14, 214-222.

Hall, N. S. (2007) R. A. Fisher and his Advocacy of Randomization, Journal of the History of Biology, 40, 295-325.

Hall, N. S. (2010) Ronald Fisher and Gertrude Cox: Two Statistical Pioneers Sometimes Cooperate and Sometimes Collide, American Statistician, 14, 212-220.

Hampel, F. (2006), The Proper Fiducial Argument, General Theory of Information Transfer and Combinatorics, 512-527.

Healy, M. J. R. (2003) R. A. Fisher the Statistician, Statistician (Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, Series D), 52 (3), 303-310.

Hinkley, D. V. (1980) Theory of Statistical Estimation: the 1925 Paper, pp. 85-94 of Fienberg & Hinkley.

Hinkley, D. V. (1980) Fisher’s Development of Conditional Inference, pp. 101-108 of Fienberg & Hinkley.

Holschuh, N. (1980) Randomization and Design: I, pp. 35-45 of Fienberg & Hinkley.

Hotelling, H. (1951) The Impact of  R. A. Fisher on Statistics, Journal of the American Statistical Association, 46, 35-46. JSTOR

Johnstone, D. J. (1987) Tests of Significance Following R. A. Fisher, British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 38, 481-499. JSTOR

Jones, D. A. (2010) In Defense of Fisher, American Scientist, 98, (1), 3.

Lehmann E. L. (1990) Model Specification: The Views of Fisher and Neyman, and Later Developments, Statistical Science, 5, pp. 160-168. JSTOR

Lenhard, J. (2006) Models and Statistical Inference: The Controversy between Fisher and Neyman-Pearson, British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, Advance Access published on January 3, 2006.

Li, C. C. (1968) Fisher, Wright and Path Coefficients, Biometrics, 24, 471-483. JSTOR.

Louçã, F. (2009) Emancipation through Interaction—How Eugenics and Statistics converged and diverged, Journal of the History of Biology, 42, (4), 649-684.

Ludbrook, J. (2005) R. A. Fisher's Life and Death in Australia, 1959–1962, American Statistician, 59, 164-165.

Mahalanobis, P. C. (1938) Professor Ronald Aylmer Fisher, Sankhya, 4, 265-272.

Marks, Harry M (2003) Rigorous uncertainty: why RA Fisher is important, International Journal of Epidemiology, 32, 932-937. 

Mather, K. (1951) R. A. Fisher’s Statistical Methods for Research Workers: An Appreciation, Journal of the American Statistical Association, 46, 51-54. JSTOR

Pearce, S. C. (1979) Experimental Design:  R.A. Fisher and Some Modern Rivals, Statistician, 28, 153-161. JSTOR

Perdersen, J. G. (1978) Fiducial Inference, International Statistical Review, 46, 147-170.

Picard, R. (1980) Randomization and Design: II, pp. 46-58 of Fienberg & Hinkley.

Pratt, J. W. (1976) F. Y. Edgeworth and R. A. Fisher on the Efficiency of Maximum Likelihood Estimation, Annals of Statistics, 4, 501-514. JSTOR

Preece, D.A. (1990)  R. A. Fisher and Experimental Design: A Review. Biometrics 46, 925-935. JSTOR

Rao, C. R. (1964) Ronald Aylmer Fisher—the Architect of Multivariate Analysis, Biometrics, 20, 286-300. JSTOR

Rao, C. R. (1992) R. A. Fisher: The Founder of Modern Statistics, Statistical Science, 7, 34-48. JSTOR

Runger, G. (1980) Some Numerical Illustrations of Fisher’s Theory of Statistical Estimation, pp. 95-100 of Fienberg & Hinkley.

Seal, H. (1967) The Historical Development of the Gauss Linear Model, Biometrika, 54, 1-24. JSTOR

Seidenfeld, T. (1992) R. A. Fisher’s Fiducial Argument and Bayes’ Theorem, Statistical Science, 7, 358-368. JSTOR

Seidenfeld, T. (1992) R. A. Fisher on the Design of Experiments and Statistical Estimation. In Sarkar  (1992), 23-36.

Senn, S. (1994) Fisher’s Game with the Devil, Statistics in Medicine 13, 217-230.

Senn, S. (2006) An Early “Atkins’ Diet”: R. A. Fisher Analyses a Medical “Experiment”. Biometrical Journal, 48, 193-204.

Speed, T. P. (1987) What is an Analysis of Variance? (with discussion), Annals of Statistics, 15, 885-941. JSTOR

Stigler, S. M. (1973). Laplace, Fisher and the Discovery of the Concept of Sufficiency, Biometrika, 60 39-445. JSTOR

Stigler, S.M. (1999) The Foundations of Statistics at Stanford, American Statistician 53, 263–266.

Stigler S. M. (2001) Ancillary History, in M. C. M. de Gunst, C. A. J. Klaassen, A. W. van der Vaart, (eds.), State of the Art in Probability and Statistics; Festschrift for Willem R. van Zwet, Institute of Mathematical Statistics, Lecture Notes—Monograph Series.

Stigler S. M. (2005) Fisher in 1921, Statistical Science, 20, 32-49.  Project Euclid

Stigler, S. M. (2006) How Ronald Fisher became a mathematical statistician, Mathématiques et sciences humaines, n° 176, Winter 2006, special issue: Contribution to the history of probabilities. Tribute issue to Bernard Bru.

Stigler, S. M. (2007) The Epic Story of Maximum Likelihood, Statistical Science, 22, (4), 598-620 Project Euclid

Stigler, S. M. (2008) Fisher and the 5% Level, Chance, 21, (4), 12.

Stolley, P. D. (1991) When Genius Errs: R.A. Fisher and the Lung Cancer Controversy, American Journal of Epidemiology, 133, 416-425.

Street, D. J.  (1990) Fisher’s Contributions to Agricultural Statistics. Biometrics, 46, 937-945. JSTOR

Thompson, E. A.  (1990) R. A. Fisher’s Contributions to Genetical Statistics. Biometrics, 46, 905-914. JSTOR

Wallace, D. L. (1980) The Behrens-Fisher and Fieller-Creasy Problems, pp. 119-147 of Fienberg & Hinkley.

Welsh, A. H. and J. Robinson (2005) Fisher and Inference for Scores, International Statistical Review, 73, 131-150.

Wynder, E. L. (1991) Re: “When Genius Errs: R.A. Fisher and the Lung Cancer Controversy,” American Journal of Epidemiology, 134, 1467-1469.

Yates, F. (1951) The Influence of Statistical Methods for Research Workers on the Development of the Science of Statistics, Journal of the American Statistical Association, 46, 19-34. JSTOR

Yates, F. (1964) Sir Ronald Fisher and the Design of Experiments, Biometrics, 20, 307-321. JSTOR

Yates, F. (1964) Fiducial Probability, Recognisable Sub-sets and Behrens’ Test, Biometrics, 20, 343-360. JSTOR

Yates, F. (1975) The Early History of Experimental Design, pp. 581-595 of J. Srivastava (ed) A Survey of Statistical Design and Linear Models, Amsterdam: North-Holland.

Youden, W. J. (1951) The Fisherian Revolution in Methods of Experimentation, Journal of the American Statistical Association, 46, 47-50. JSTOR

Zabell, S. (1989) R. A. Fisher on the History of Inverse Probability (with discussion), Statistical Science, 4, 247-63. JSTOR

Zabell, S. (1992) R. A. Fisher and the Fiducial Argument, Statistical Science, 7, 369-387. JSTOR

 

 

Papers on Genetics, Eugenics and Evolutionary Biology see also Pearson  Wright   Fisher lectures  

Ao, P. (2005) Laws of Darwinian Evolutionary Theory, Physics of Life Reviews, 2, 117-156.

Band, H. T. (2000) Sir Ronald Fisher and Natural Selection, , Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 15, 161-162.

Bartley, M. M. (1994) Conflicts in Human Progress: Sexual Selection and the Fisherian “Runaway,” British Journal for the History of Science, 27, 177-196.

Bodmer, W. F. (1992) Early British Discoveries in Human Genetics: Contributions of R.A. Fisher and J.B.S. Haldane to the Development of Blood Groups, American Journal of Human Genetics, 50, 671–676.

Cain, A.J. (1988) A Criticism of J. R. G. Turner’s Article “Fisher's Evolutionary Faith and the challenge of Mimicry”. Oxford Surveys in Evolutionary Biology, 5, (ed. P. H. Harvey & L. Partridge), 246-248. Oxford University Press.

Crow, J.F. (1990) R. A. Fisher, a Centennial View. Genetics, 124, 207-211. Free text.

Crow, J.F. (2002) Here’s to Fisher, Additive Genetic Variance, and the Fundamental Theorem of Natural Selection. Evolution, 56, 1313-1316. JSTOR

Edwards, A. W. F. (1990) Fisher, W, and the Fundamental Theorem. Theoretical Population Biology, 38, 276-284.

Edwards, A.W.F. (1990) R. A. Fisher: Twice Professor of Genetics: London and Cambridge. Biometrics, 46, 897-904. JSTOR Revised version in Statistician (Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, Series D), 52 (3), 311-318.

Edwards, A.W.F. (1994) The Fundamental Theorem of Natural Selection. Biological Reviews 69, 443-474.

Edwards, A. W. F. (1996) W. D. Hamilton’s Darwinian Predecessors, TLS 6th December, reprinted in Galton Institute Newsletter, (June, 1997) here.

Edwards, A. W. F. (1998) The Eugenics Society and the Development of Biometry. The 1997 Galton Lecture, London, 19th September. Essays in the History of Eugenics, ed. R. A. Peel, 156-172. London: The Galton Institute.

Edwards, A. W. F. (1998) Natural Selection and the Sex Ratio: Fisher’s Sources, American Naturalist 151, 564-569.

Edwards, A. W. F. (2000) The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection. In Perspectives, ed. J. F. Crow and W. F. Dove. Genetics 154, 1419–1426. Genetics Online

Edwards, A. W. F. (2000) Fisher Information and the Fundamental Theorem of Natural Selection. Rendiconti (B) Istituto Lombardo di Scienze e Lettere, Milano.

Edwards, A. W. F. (2000) Carl Düsing (1884) on the Regulation of the Sex-ratio, Theoretical Population Biology, 58, 255-257.

Edwards, A. W. F. (2001) Darwin and Mendel United: the Contributions of Fisher, Haldane and Wright up to 1932. In Encyclopedia of Genetics, ed. E. C. R. Reeve, London: Fitzroy Dearborn, 77-83.

Edwards, A. W. F. (2005) Linkage Methods in Human Genetics before the Computer, Human Genetics, 118, 515-30.

Edwards, A. W. F. (2006) Fisher, Demetrius and Wright: contending models, BioEssays 28, 440.

Edwards, A. W. F. (2007) R. A. Fisher's 1943 Unravelling of the Rhesus Blood-Group System, Genetics 175, 471–476.

Edwards, A. W. F. (2011) Mathematizing Darwin, Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 65, 421–430.

Esposito, M. (2011) Utopianism in the British Evolutionary Synthesis, Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 42, 40-49.

 

Frank, S. A. and Slatkin, M. (1992) Fisher’s Fundamental Theorem of Natural Selection. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 7, 92-95.

Gould, S. J. (1996) The Smoking Gun of Eugenics. In S. J. Gould (ed.) Dinosaur in a Haystack: Reflections in Natural History (pp. 296-308). London: Cape.

Grafen, A. (2003) Fisher the Evolutionary Biologist, Statistician (Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, Series D), 52 (3), 319-330.

Karlin, S. (1992) R. A. Fisher and Evolutionary Theory, Statistical Science, 7, 13-33.  JSTOR

Kempthorne, O. (1974) A Review of Collected Papers of R. A. Fisher ed. J. H. Bennett, Social Biology, 21, 98-101.

Leigh, E. G. jr. (1986) Ronald Fisher and the Development of Evolutionary Theory. I. The Role of Selection. Oxford Surveys in Evolutionary Biology, 3, (ed. R. Dawkins & M. Ridley), 187-223. Oxford University Press.

Leigh, E. G. jr. (1987) Ronald Fisher and the Development of Evolutionary Theory. II. Influences of New Variation on Evolutionary process. Oxford Surveys in Evolutionary Biology, 4, (ed. P. H. Harvey & L. Partridge), 212-263. Oxford University Press.

Leigh, E. G. (1999) The Modern Synthesis, Ronald Fisher and Creationism, Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 14, 495-498.

Mayo, O. (1990) R. A. Fisher’s Contribution to Evolutionary Theory. Evolución Biológica, 4, 1-21.

Mooney, S. M. (1995) H. J. Muller and R. A. Fisher on the Evolutionary Significance of Sex, Journal of the History of Biology, 28,  133-149.

Moore, J. (2007) R. A. Fisher: A Faith Fit for Eugenics, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 38 (1), 110-135.

Moran, P. A. P. and Smith, C. A. B. (1966) Commentary on R. A. Fisher’s Paper 'The Correlation between Relatives on the Supposition of Mendelian Inheritance’. Eugenics Laboratory Memoirs XLI, Galton Laboratory, University College London.

Morrison, M. (2002) Modeling Populations: Pearson and Fisher on Mendelism and Biometry, British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 53, 39-68.

Morrison, M. (2006) Unification, Explanation and Explaining Unity: The Fisher-Wright Controversy, British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 57 (1), 233-245.

Norton, B.J. (1975) Metaphysics and Population Genetics: Karl Pearson and the background to Fisher’s multi-factorial theory of inheritance. Annals of Science, 32, 537-553.

Norton, B.J. (1978) Fisher and the Neo-Darwinian Synthesis. E. G. Forbes (ed.), Human Implications of Scientific Advance. Proceedings of the XVth International Congress of the History of Science. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 481–494. 

Norton, B.J. (1981) La Situation Intellectuelle au Moment des Débuts de Fisher en Génétique des Populations. Revue de Synthèse IIIe serie, 103-104, 230-250. (and others in this special number R.A.Fisher et l'histoire de la génétique des populations).

Norton, B. (1983) Fisher’s Entrance into Evolutionary Science: the Role of Eugenics. Dimensions of Darwinism. Themes and Counterthemes in Twentieth Century Evolutionary Theory (ed. M. Grene), 19-29. Cambridge University Press.

Novitski, E. (2004) On Fisher's Criticism of Mendel's Results With the Garden Pea, Genetics, 166, 1133-1136

O’Donald, P. (1990) Fisher’s Contributions to the Theory of Sexual Selection as the Basis of Recent Research. Theoretical Population Biology, 38, 285-300. 

S. Okasha (2008) Fisher’s Fundamental Theorem of Natural Selection—A Philosophical Analysis, British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 59 (3), 319 - 351.

Piegorsch, W. W.  (1990)  Fisher’s Contributions to Genetics and Heredity, with Special Emphasis on the Gregor Mendel Controversy. Biometrics 46, 915-924. JSTOR

Pilpel, A. (2007) Statistics is not Enough: Revisiting Ronald A. Fisher’s Critique (1936) of Mendel’s Experimental Results (1866) Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 38, 618-626. 

Plutynski, A. (2005) Explanatory Unification and the Early Synthesis, British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 56, 595-609.

Plutynski, A. (2006) What was Fisher’s Fundamental Theorem of Natural Selection and What was It for? Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 37, 59-82.

Provine, W. B. (1978) The Role of Mathematical Population Geneticists in the Evolutionary Synthesis of the 1930s and 1940s. Studies in the History of Biology 2, 167-192.

Provine, W. B.  (1990) Population Genetics (reprint of papers by Fisher, Haldane, and Wright, with an introduction). Bulletin of Mathematical Biology, 52, 201-318 (Special issue Classics of Theoretical Biology, Part I).

Race, R. R. (1964) Some Notes on Fisher’s Contributions to Human Blood Groups, Biometrics, 20, 361-367. JSTOR

Race, R. R. and R. Sanger (1982) Fisher’s Contribution to Rh, Vox Sanguinis, 43, 354-356.

Sarkar, S. (2004) Evolutionary Theory in the 1920s: The Nature of the “Synthesis”, Philosophy of Science, 71, 1215–1226.

Tabery, J. (2004) The “Evolutionary Synthesis” of George Udny Yule, Journal of the History of Biology, 37(1), 73-101.

Tabery, J. (2008) R. A. Fisher, Lancelot Hogben, and the Origin(s) of Genotype–Environment Interaction, Journal of the History of Biology, 41, 717–761.

Turner, J.R.G. (1985) Fisher’s Evolutionary Faith and the Challenge of Mimicry. Oxford Surveys in Evolutionary Biology, 2, (ed. R. Dawkins & M. Ridley), 159-96. Oxford University Press.

Turner, J.R.G. (1987) Random Genetic Drift, R. A. Fisher, and the Oxford School of Ecological Genetics. The Probabilistic Revolution. Vol. 2: Ideas in the Sciences (eds. G. Gigerenzer, L. Krüger & M. Morgan). Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press/Bradford Books, 313-354.

Turner, J.R.G. (1988) Reply: Men of Fisher’s? Oxford Surveys in Evolutionary Biology, 5, (ed. P.H. Harvey & L. Partridge), 249-252. Oxford University Press.

Watt, D. C. (2000) C P Blacker, R A Fisher and L Penrose on Eugenic Fundamentals, Galton Institute Newsletter, Parts I and II.

Welling, F. (1986) What about R. A. Fisher’s Statement of the “too good” Data of J. G. Mendel’s Pisum Paper? Journal of Heredity, 77, 281-283.

Williams, C. B. (1964) Some Experiences of a Biologist with R. A. Fisher and Statistics, Biometrics, 20, 301-06. JSTOR

Wooding, S. (2006) Phenylthiocarbamide: A 75-Year Adventure in Genetics and Natural Selection, Genetics, 172, 2015-2023. Genetics Online

 

 

 

Books taking off from Fisher

 

These books, in one way or another, take Fisher as their starting point. They illustrate how Fisher continued to influence developments even after his long life had ended. Although the books present the authors’ own ideas, they often have interesting things to say about Fisher’s ideas.

 

T. Seidenfeld, (1979) Philosophical Problems of Statistical Inference: Learning from R. A. Fisher, Dordrecht: Reidel.

A philosopher attempts to develop Fisher’s ideas on fiducial probability.

 

A. W.F. Edwards (1972/1992) Likelihood (Expanded Edition, with a new preface), Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

An attempt to develop Fisher’s ideas on likelihood.

 

I. Hacking (1965) Logic of Statistical Inference, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

A philosopher attempts to reconstruct the foundations of Statistics, taking issue with some of Fisher’s ideas, while developing others.

 

B. R. Frieden (1998) Physics from Fisher Information: A Unification, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

This book attempts to develop physical theory on the basis of Fisher information.

 

D. A. S. Fraser (1968) The Structure of Inference, New York: Wiley.

An early instalment of a continuing project of reconstructing fiducial inference.

 

O. E. Barndorff-Nielsen. & D. R. Cox (1994) Inference and Asymptotics, London: Chapman & Hall.

A continuing project to develop the conditional inference first proposed by Fisher in his 1934 Two New Properties of Mathematical Likelihood. 

 

R. Royall (1997) Statistical Evidence: A Likelihood Paradigm. London: Chapman & Hall.

Develops the likelihood strand in Fisher’s thinking while rejecting Fisher’s account of significance testing.

 

J. K. Ghosh (ed) (1988) Statistical Information and Likelihood: A Collection of Critical Essays by Dr. D. Basu, New York: Springer-Verlag.

Basu’s critical essays on Fisherian themes: ancillarity, likelihood, randomisation.

 

Fisher Memorial Lectures

There are Fisher memorial lecture series in the UK, USA and Australia. (See here for information about the British series and here for information about the US series, including lists of the lectures by year.) The published lectures are listed below; sometimes the title does not match that of the original lecture. The invitation to give the lecture is a recognition of the lecturer’s contribution and the lecture is most often a tour d’horizon of the lecturer’s specialism. There may be some remarks on how the specialism is rooted in Fisher’s work. Some lectures have much more to say about Fisher, his statistics, his genetics or both—they are marked fff.  The links are all to JSTOR. Some people have contributed lectures to more than one series.

Anderson, T. W. (1996) R. A. Fisher and Multivariate Analysis, Statistical Science, 11, 20-34. JSTOR

Anscombe, F. J. (1982) How Much to Look at the Data, Utilitas Mathematica, 21A, 23-28.

fff Bartlett, M. S. (1965) R. A. Fisher and the First Fifty Years of Statistical Methodology, Journal of the American Statistical Association, 60, 395-409. JSTOR

Berger, J. (2003) Could Fisher, Jeffreys and Neyman Have Agreed Upon Testing? Statistical Science, 18, 1-32 (2003). Euclid.

fff Bodmer, W.F. (1990) Genetic Sequences, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 241, 85-92.  JSTOR

fff Box, G. E. P. (1976) Science and Statistics,  Journal of the American Statistical Association, 71, 791-799.  JSTOR

Box, G. E. P. (1989)  Quality Improvement: an Expanding Domain for the Application of Scientific Method. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, 327, 617–630. JSTOR 

Breslow, N.E. (1996) Statistics in Epidemiology: the Case-control Study. In Advances in Biometry, ed. Armitage, P. and David, H. A., New York: Wiley, 287–318.

Brillinger, D. R. (1992) Nerve Cell Spike Train Data Analysis: A Progression of Technique, Journal of the American Statistical Association, 87, 260-271. JSTOR 

Chernoff, H. (1980) The Identification of an Element of a Large Population in the Presence of Noise, 8, 1179-1197. JSTOR

Cochran, W. G. (1973) Experiments for Nonlinear Functions” Journal of the American Statistical Association, 68, 771-781. JSTOR

Cook, R. D. (2007) Dimension Reduction in Regression, (with discussion), Statistical Science, 22, 1-43. Euclid

Cox, D. R. (1984) Present Position and Potential Developments: Some Personal Views. Design of Experiments and Regression. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society A 147, 306–315. JSTOR 

Daniel, C. (1973) One-at-a-time Plans, Journal of the American Statistical Association, 68, 353-360. JSTOR 

Dempster, A. P.  (1998) Logicist Statistics. 1. Models and Modeling. Statistical Science, 13, 248–276.

fff  Doll, R. (2002) Proof of Causality: Deduction from Epidemiological Observation, Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 45, Number 4, 499-515.

fff Edwards, A. W. F. (1995) Fiducial Inference and the Fundamental Theorem of Natural Selection. XVIIIth Fisher Memorial Lecture, Biometrics, 51, 799-809. JSTOR

fff Edwards, A. W. F. (1993) Mendel, Galton, Fisher. Australian Journal of Statistics, 35, 129-140.

Efron, B. (1998) R. A. Fisher in the 21st Century, Statistical Science (with discussion), 13, 95-122. Euclid.

Fienberg, S. E. (1981) Recent Advances in Theory and Methods for the Analysis of Categorical Data: Making the Link to Statistical Practice. Bulletin of the International Statistical Institute 49(2), 763-791.

Finney, D.J. (1979)  Bioassay and the Practice of Statistical Inference. International Statistical Review 47, 1–12.

Fraser, D. A. S ( 1991) Statistical Inference: Likelihood to Significance. Journal of the American Statistical Association, 86, 258-265. JSTOR

Goodman, L.A. (1968) The Analysis of Cross-classified Data: Independence, Quasi-independence, and Interactions in Contingency Tables with or without Missing Entries. Journal of the American Statistical Association 63, 1091–1131. JSTOR 

Healy, M.J.R. (1995) Frank Yates, 1902–1994 – The Work of a Statistician. International Statistical Review 63, 271–288.

Kalbfleisch, J. D. (2000) The Estimating Function Bootstrap, Canadian Journal of Statistics, 30, 449-499.

Karlin, S. and Matessi, C. (1983) Kin Selection and Altruism. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 219, 327–353. JSTOR

fff Kempthorne, O. (1966) Some Aspects of Experimental Inference, Journal of the American Statistical Association, 61, 11-34.  JSTOR

Mallows, C. (1998) The Zeroth problem. The American Statistician 52, 1-9.

fff Mayo, O. (2004) To What Extent has Fisher’s Research Program been Fulfilled in Australia, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Statistics, 46(4), 517-529.

Mosteller, F. (1989) Methods for Studying Coincidences (with P. Diaconis) Journal of the American Statistical Association, 84, 853-861.  JSTOR

fff Rubin, D. B. (2005) Causal Inference Using Potential Outcomes: Design, Modeling, Decisions, Journal of the American Statistical Association, 100, 322-331.

fff  Savage, L. J. (1976) On Rereading R. A. Fisher, (with discussion) Annals of Statistics, 4, 441-500. JSTOR

fff  Speed, T. (2006) Recombination and Linkage, Presentation  pdf (16MB)

Thompson, E. A. (1996) Likelihood and Linkage: from Fisher to the Future. Annals of Statistics 24, 449–465. JSTOR

Thompson, E. A. (2007) 1953: An Unrecognised Summit in Human Genetic Linkage Analysis, Statistics Surveys, 1.

Yates, F. (1966) Computers, the Second Revolution in Statistics, Biometrics 22, 233–251. JSTOR

 

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Other sites

 

Fisher

 

Fisher Memorial Trust

 

Chance, risk and health An Open University series of 4 podcasts on RA Fisher and his legacy

 

Fisher quotations compiled by A.W. F. Edwards

 

Fisher’s notes on the classification of the Rhesus blood groups

 

The syllabus for George Casella’s course (Statistical) Fisher in the 21st century

 

My other Fisher sites (referred to in this document)

 

Ronald Fisher’s childhood home

Likelihood and Probability in R. A. Fisher’s Statistical Methods for Research Workers

Student’s review of Fisher’s Statistical Methods

E. S.  Pearson’s reviews of Fisher’s Statistical Methods

Leon Isserlis’s review of Fishers’ Statistical Methods

Nature review of Fisher’s Statistical Methods

BMJ review of Fisher’s Statistical Methods

 

General

 

Peter Lee’s History of Statistics  has many interesting links.

 

For recent literature Recent Publications in the History of Probability and Statistics at the JEHPS.

 

Peter Cameron’s Encyclopaedia of Design Theory treats a subject Fisher revolutionised. 

 

Paul Handford’s Brief History of Population Genetics has a section on Fisher.

 

The Current Index to Statistics is useful for Fisher topics. There is free access to its pre-1996 entries

 

MedHist the Wellcome Library’s gateway to internet resources for the history of medicine has sections on genetics and eugenics.

 

My Figures from the History of Probability and Statistics has a sketch of the history of probability and statistics and notes on some of the key people.

 

 

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