Mathematical Digest

Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics
in the Popular Press

Two reviews of Review of Karl Pearson: The Scientific Lifein a Statistical Age by Theodore M. Porter:
"A Statistician in Embryo": Reviewed by John Aldrich. American Scientist, July/August 2004, pages 386-387.
"Tragedy Averted": Reviewed by Manfred D. Laubichler. Science, 18 June 2004, pages 1747-1748.

The author of this book, Theodore M. Porter, focuses much attention onPearson's process of becoming, by 1900, the world's leading mathematicalstatistician. Pearson was a man who used his many talents to make writtencontributions, some clearly significant, to a variety of fields prior to thispoint. Porter uses Pearson's numerous writings to provide an "inside view" ofthe young Pearson. But Porter's interest in his subject lessens, in Aldrich'sview, "after the 35-year old-Pearson has been 'seized' by the 'statisticalimpulse'." Aldrich speculates that a lack of sources results in the mainlypublic view we have of the older statistician. While referring the generalreader to other works for a more thorough exposition of Pearson's statisticalwork, Aldrich ultimately refers both specialist and non-specialist alike toPorter's book for the new insights he provides.

See also: "Sorrows of the young statistician," reviewed by Peter J. Bowler, Nature 29 July 2004, page 507.

--- Claudia Clark