Sir Ronald Aylmer Fisher

Born: 17 Feb 1890 in London, England
Died: 29 July 1962 in Adelaide, Australia

[Mathematiker Bild]

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Ronald Fisher received a B.A. in astronomy from Cambridge in 1912. There he studied the theory of errors under Stratton using Airy's manual on the Theory of Errors . It was Fisher's interest in the theory of errors in astronomical observations that eventually led him to investigate statistical problems.

Fisher gave up being a mathematics teacher in 1919 to work at the Rothamsted Agricultural Experiment Station where he worked as a biologist and made many contributions to both statistics and genetics. He had a long dispute with Pearson and he turned down a post under him, choosing to go to Rothamsted instead. There he studied the design of experiments by introducing the concept of randomisation and the analysis of variance, procedures now used throughout the world.

In 1921 he introduced the concept of likelihood. The likelihood of a parameter is proportional to the probability of the data and it gives a function which usually has a single maximum value, which he called the maximum likelihood.

In 1922 he gave a new definition of statistics. Its purpose was the reduction of data and he identified three fundamental problems. These are (i) specification of the kind of population that the data came from (ii) estimation and (iii) distribution.

The contributions Fisher made included the development of methods suitable for small samples, like those of Gosset, the discovery of the precise distributions of many sample statistics and the invention of analysis of variance. He introduced the term maximum likelihood and studied hypothesis testing.

Fisher is considered one of the founders of modern statistics because of his many important contributions.

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1929, was awarded the Royal Medal of the Society in 1938 and he was awarded the Darwin Medal of the Society in 1948:-

... in recognition of his distinguished contributions to the theory of natural selection, the concept of its gene complex and the evolution of dominance.
Then, in 1955, he was awarded the Copley Medal of the Royal Society:-
... in recognition of his numerous and distinguished contributions to developing the theory and application of statistics for making quantitative a vast field of biology.

References (13 books/articles)

References elsewhere in this archive:

Ronald A Fisher was elected to the Royal Society of London in 1929. You can see a history of the Royal Society and a list of the members among the mathematicians in our archive.
He was awarded the Royal Medal of the Royal Society in 1938 and the Copley Medal in 1955. You can see a history of the Royal Medal and a list of the winners in our archive and a history of the Copley Medal and a list of the winners.

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JOC/EFR November 1997