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Fisher, Sir Ronald Aylmer

genetics rothamsted data children

(1890–1962) British statistician and geneticist: pioneer of modern statistical methods.

Fisher’s father was a successful auctioneer and the boy was one of eight children; he also had eight children, ‘a personal expression of his genetic and evolutionary convictions’, although he and his wife later separated. He was small, forceful, eloquent and eccentric.

Fisher graduated in Cambridge in 1912 in mathematics and physics, and spent from 1913–19 in a variety of jobs (his poor eyesight excluded him from service in the First World War). Then he was appointed as the only statistician at the Rothamsted Experimental Station, with 66 years of data on agricultural field trials to examine. He was there for 14 years before moving to London, and to a Cambridge chair of genetics in 1943. When he was 69 he joined the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) staff in Australia. Before he went to Rothamsted he worked on the statistics of human inheritance, showing that laws must lead to the correlations observed. He went on to show that Mendel’s work on genetics and on natural selection are in good accord, rather than in conflict as some had believed. His work on the Rothamsted field data led him to major advances on the design of experiments and on the best use of small samples of data. He unravelled the genetics of the Rhesus blood factor. A smoker himself, he argued to the end that smoking should not be causally related to disease. In nearly all other matters his views and methods have been adopted and extended, and used in all the many areas where statistical analysis is possible.

FitzGerald, George Francis [next] [back] Fisher, Miles Mark(1899–1970) - Minister, educator, church historian, writer, Begins Church Ministry, Chronology

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