Karl Pearson

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Karl Pearson
Karl Pearson (né Carl Pearson)
Born(1857-03-27)27 March 1857
Died27 April 1936(1936-04-27) (aged 79)
Alma materUniversity of Cambridge
University of Heidelberg
Known forPearson distribution
Pearson's r
Pearson's chi-squared test
Phi coefficient
AwardsDarwin Medal (1898)
Scientific career
FieldsLawyer, eugenicist, mathematician and statistician (mainly the latter)
InstitutionsUniversity College London
King's College, Cambridge
InfluencesFrancis Galton

Karl Pearson FRS (27 March 1857 – 27 April 1936) was an influential English mathematician.[1][2] He helped establish the discipline of mathematical statistics.[3] "Carl Pearson" became "Karl Pearson" by accident when he enrolled at the University of Heidelberg in 1879. They changed the spelling. He used both versions of his name until 1884 when he finally adopted Karl.[4] Eventually he became known as "KP".

In 1911 he founded the world's first university statistics department at University College London. He was a proponent of eugenics, and a protégé and biographer of Sir Francis Galton.

A conference was held in London on 23 March 2007, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of his birth.[3]

Galton[change | change source]

Pearson met Charles Darwin's cousin Francis Galton, who was interested in heredity and eugenics. Pearson became Galton's protégé, at times close to hero worship.

After Galton's death in 1911, Pearson started on a massive three-volume biography of Galton. The biography was done "to satisfy myself and without regard to... the needs of publishers or to the tastes of the reading public". It celebrated Galton's life, work, and talent. He predicted (wrongly) that Galton, rather than Charles Darwin, would be remembered as the most prodigious grandson of Erasmus Darwin.

When Galton died, he left much of his estate to University College London for a Chair in Eugenics. Pearson was the first holder of this chair,[5] in accordance with Galton's wishes.[6] He formed the Department of Applied Statistics, which included the Biometric and Galton laboratories. He stayed with the department until his retirement in 1933, and continued to work until his death in 1936.

Statistics[change | change source]

Pearson's ideas helped build the statistical methods in common use today.[7][8][9][10][11]

Books[change | change source]

  • The grammar of science. 1892; 2nd ed 1900. A. & C. Black, London. Dover Publications 2004 edition ISBN 0-486-49581-7
  • The life, letters and labours of Francis Galton: three volumes: 1914, 1924, 1930, Cambridge University Press, available in full at Galton website

References[change | change source]

  1. ^ Yule G.U. & Filon L.N.G. 1936. Karl Pearson. 1857-1936. Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society 2 (5): 72. [1][permanent dead link]
  2. "Library and Archive catalogue". Sackler Digital Archive. Royal Society. Archived from the original on 2011-10-25. Retrieved 2011-07-01.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Karl Pearson sesquicentenary conference". Royal Statistical Society. 2007-03-03. Retrieved 2008-07-25.
  4. Porter, Theodore M. 2004. Karl Pearson: the scientific life in a statistical age. Princeton University Press. pg.78
  5. The Galton Chair of Eugenics, later the Galton Chair of Genetics
  6. Pearson, Roger 1991. Race, intelligence and bias in Academe Scott-Townsend Publishers.
  7. Stigler, S.M. (1989). "Francis Galton's account of the invention of correlation". Statistical Science. 4 (2): 73–79. doi:10.1214/ss/1177012580.
  8. Pearson, K. (1900). "On the criterion that a given system of deviations from the probable in the case of a correlated system of variables is such that it can be reasonably supposed to have arisen from random sampling". Philosophical Magazine Series 5. 50 (302): 157–175. doi:10.1080/14786440009463897.
  9. Neyman, J.; Pearson, E.S. (1928). "On the use and interpretation of certain test criteria for purposes of statistical inference". Biometrika. 20: 175–240.
  10. Pearson, K. (1901). "On lines and planes of closest fit to systems of points in space". Philosophical Magazine Series 6. 2 (11): 559–572. doi:10.1080/14786440109462720.
  11. Jolliffe I.T. 2002. Principal component analysis. 2nd ed, New York: Springer-Verlag.

Other sources[change | change source]