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Statistics is a mathematical science pertaining to the collection, analysis, interpretation and presentation of data.
- In the 1930s English statistical theory was beginning to travel, with contributions from, amongst others, Hotelling and Snedecor in America and Darmois in France, but its home was still in England where there were four important centres: University College London, Rothamsted Experimental Station, Edinburgh University and Cambridge University with University College and Rothamsted far in the lead. Although Cambridge University was slow to adopt modern statistical theory, Cambridge men–Karl Pearson, Edmund Whittaker and Ronald Fisher–had put the other places on the statistical map. University College was the most established centre and its importance went back to 1893 when Karl Pearson, the professor of applied mathematics, first collaborated with Raphael Weldon, the professor of zoology on a subject they called “biometry.” There was a second surge in the “English statistical school” associated with R. A. Fisher who went to work at Rothamsted in 1919.
- Aldrich, John (December 2009). "England and Continental Probability in the Inter-War Years". Electronic Journal for History of Probability and Statistics 5 (2): 5-6.
- I wish that people would be persuaded that psychological experiments, especially those on the complex functions, are not improved (by large studies); the statistical method gives only mediocre results; some recent examples demonstrate that. The American authors, who love to do things big, often publish experiments that have been conducted on hundreds and thousands of people; they instinctively obey the prejudice that the persuasiveness of a work is proportional to the number of observations. This is only an illusion.
- Alfred Binet (1903). L’Etude experimentale de l’intelligence. Paris: Schleicher Freres and Cie. p. 299; As cited in: Carson (1999, 360)
- Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful.
- Attributed to statistician, George E. P. Box quoted in (1987). Empirical Model-Building and Response Surfaces, p. 424,
- Statisticians, like artists, have the bad habit of falling in love with their models.
- Attributed to statistician, George E. P. Box
- ...the statistician knows...that in nature there never was a normal distribution, there never was a straight line, yet with normal and linear assumptions, known to be false, he can often derive results which match, to a useful approximation, those found in the real world.
- George Box (JASA, 1976, Vol. 71, 791-799)
- Strange events permit themselves the luxury of occurring.
- Charlie Chan in a book by Earl Derr Biggers (1928). Behind That Curtain.
- If you torture the data enough, nature will always confess.
- Ronald Coase (1982). How should economists chose?. American Enterprise Institute. pp. 16.
- There are no routine statistical questions, only questionable statistical routines.
- David Cox (quoted by Christopher Chatfield in Avoiding Statistical Pitfalls 1991 p. 240)
- J.M. Hammersley (quoted by Rolf Sundberg in Interpretation of unreplicated two-level factorial experiments, by examples p. 2)
- Statistics is the science of learning from data, and of measuring, controlling, and communicating uncertainty.
- There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.
- Attributed to Benjamin Disraeli by Mark Twain in "Chapters from My Autobiography — XX", North American Review No. DCXVIII (JULY 5, 1907) . His attribution is unverified and the origin is uncertain: see Lies, damned lies, and statistics and Leonard H. Courtney. Other authors to whom the quote has been attributed, as reported in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989), include Henry Labouchère, Abram S. Hewitt, and Holloway H. Frost.
- Statistics has been the most successful information science.
Those who ignore Statistics are condemned to reinvent it.
- Attributed to Bradley Efron by Jerome H. Friedman (April 2001). "The Role of Statistics in the Data Revolution?". International Statistical Review 69: 5-10.
- The rise of biometry in this 20th century, like that of geometry in the 3rd century before Christ, seems to mark out one of the great ages or critical periods in the advance of the human understanding.
- To consult the statistician after an experiment is finished is often merely to ask him to conduct a post mortem examination. He can perhaps say what the experiment died of.
- briefly, and in its most concrete form, the object of statistical methods is the reduction of data. A quantity of data, which usually by its mere bulk is incapable of entering the mind, is to be replaced by relatively few quantities which shall adequately represent the whole, or which, in other words, shall contain as much as possible, ideally the whole, of the relevant information contained in the original data.
- A well-wrapped statistic is better than Hitler's "big lie"; it misleads, yet it cannot be pinned on you.
- Statistics is both the science of uncertainty and the technology of extracting information from data.
- I think the essential thing if you want to be a good statistician, as opposed to being a mathematician, is to talk to people and find out what they're doing and why they're doing it.
- Florence Nightingale David and Nan M. Laird (1989). "A Conversation with F. N. David". Statistical Science 4: 245.
- Statistics is the art of stating in precise terms that which one does not know.
- William Kruskal (1965). "STATISTICS, MOLIERE AND HENRY ADAMS": 80.
- Statistics is the study and informed application of methods for reaching conclusions about the world from fallible observations.
- William Kruskal (1965). "STATISTICS, MOLIERE AND HENRY ADAMS": 80.
- Each of us has been doing statistics all his life, in the sense that each of us has been busily reaching conclusions based on empirical observations.
- William Kruskal (1965). "STATISTICS, MOLIERE AND HENRY ADAMS": 81.
- Statistics are like a bikini. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.
- Aaron Levenstein (1911–1986), quoted by Laurence J. Peter in Quotations for Our Time (1977), requoted in Oxford Essential Quotations (4 ed.) (2016)
- Politicians use statistics in the same way that a drunk uses lampposts — for support rather than illumination.
- Andrew Lang, in a 1910 speech: as quoted in Alan L. Mackay, The Harvest of a Quiet Eye (1977), and reported in Chambers Dictionary of Quotations (2005), p. 488.
- Uncertainty is a personal matter; it is not the uncertainty but your uncertainty.
- Dennis Lindley, Understanding Uncertainty (2006)
- Without the aid of statistics nothing like real medicine is possible.
- Pierre Charles Alexandre Louis
- Quoted in Evidence-based medicine: old French wine with a new Canadian label?, P K Rangachari, J R Soc Med. 1997 May; 90(5): 280–284.
- According to a University College London study (2014), 40% of women surveyed with severe mental illness had suffered rape or attempted rape in adulthood, and 53% of those had attempted suicide as a result. In the general population, 7% of women had been victims of rape or attempted rape, of whom 3% had attempted suicide. If these statistics don't sound accurate to you, your hesitation or disbelief supports another reality about rape research: Because so many individuals who survive a rape may not report a rape (for a multitude of reasons), statistics have limited meaning.
- Seth Meyers, "Loving or Having Sex with a Woman Who's Been Raped", Psychology Today, (May 05, 2017)
- A statistical procedure is not an automatic, mechanical truth-generating machine.
- While it is easy to lie with statistics, it is even easier to lie without them.
- Attributed to Frederick Mosteller in Murray, Charles (2005). "How to Accuse the Other Guy of Lying with Statistics". Statistical Science 20 (3): 239-241. ISSN 0883-4237. Retrieved on 2011-08-22.
- A statistical analysis, properly conducted, is a delicate dissection of uncertainties, a surgery of suppositions.
- Michael J. Moroney (1951). Facts from Figures. pp. 3. ISBN 9780140202366.
- 91.7 percent of all statistics are made-up on the spot.
- In God we trust. All others must bring data.
- Variants: In God we trust. All others must have data. and In God we trust, others must provide data.
- Proverbial, variant of "In God we trust. All others (pay) cash.", which dates to at least 1877 US.
- Earliest attestation 1978, which already refers to it as a cliche:
- I should like to close by citing a well-recognized cliche in scientific circles. The cliche is, "In God we trust, others must provide data."
- Effect of Smoking on Nonsmokers: Hearing Before the Subcommittee on Tobacco of the Committee on Agriculture, House of Representatives, Ninety-fifth Congress, Second Session, September 7, 1978, p. 5 (quoting Edwin R. Fisher, brother of Bernard Fisher)
- Other earlier example 1981, in "Test Bias: in God We Trust; All Others Must Have Data", Cecil R. Reynolds, Invited address for the APA Division of Evaluation and Measurement, to the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, August 1981.
- Published as "Test bias: In God we trust, all others must have data." Journal of Special Education, 17(3), 214–268 (1983), DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/002246698301700303
- Later attestation "1984 W. J. Youden Memorial Address: The Key Role of Statisticians in the Transformation of North American Industry", by Brian L. Joiner (at American Statistical Association fall conference), transcript published variously:
- ASQ Statistics Division Newsletter, volume 6, number 2 (1985)
- The American Statistician Vol. 39, No. 3 (Aug., 1985), pp. 224-227, DOI: 10.2307/2683943, p. 226:
- We [Statisticians] can show how understanding processes helps provide ways for data-based communication of departmental needs. We can help to eliminate finger-pointing and get down to the facts. "In God we trust. All others must bring data." Or, "Facts often kill a good argument."
- Frequently attributed to W. Edwards Deming; it appears in The Deming Management Method, by Mary Walton, 1986, p. 96, without any attribution, to Deming or anyone else:
- Chapter 20: Doing It with Data: "In God we trust. All others must bring data." If there is a credo for statisticians, it is that.
- To understand God's thoughts we must study statistics, for these are the measure of his purpose.
- The true foundation of theology is to ascertain the character of God. It is by the art of statistics that law in the social sphere can be ascertained and codified, and certain aspects of the character of God thereby revealed. The study of statistics is thus a religious service.
- Attributed to Florence Nightingale by F.N. David in Games, Gods, and Gambling: A History of Probability and Statistical Ideas, 1962, page 103.
- Average a left-hander with a right-hander and what do you get?
- Donald Norman, The Design of Everyday Things (1988), Ch. 6, p. 162
- With four parameters I can fit an elephant, and with five I can make him wiggle his trunk.
- Attributed to von Neumann by Enrico Fermi, as quoted by Freeman Dyson in "A meeting with Enrico Fermi" in Nature 427 (22 January 2004) p. 297
- Although its evolution in the United States differed markedly from that of applied mathematics, statistics, too, benefited from the presence of the emigres and from the overall war effort. After a protracted period of professional differentiation from the social scientists and from the social sciences, mathematical statisticians had formed their own society, the Institute of Mathematical Statistics (IMS), in 1935. By 1938, the IMS had also taken over responsibility for the Annals of Mathematical Statistics, a journal that had been founded in 1929 to serve the needs of the more mathematically and theoretically inclined statistical practitioners. Thus, when refugees like Neyman, William Feller, Mark Kac, and Abraham Wald took up positions in the United States at Berkeley, Brown, Cornell, and Columbia, respectively, they were able to participate in a young, but viable, community of mathematical statisticians.
- Numbers and stats bob in a sentimental slop, a swampy slurry of bits of hard data and buckets of mushy manipulation.
- Laura Penny, More Money Than Brains, p. 28
- The individual source of the statistics may easily be the weakest link. Harold Cox tells a story of his life as a young man in India. He quoted some statistics to a Judge, an Englishman, and a very good fellow. His friend said, Cox, when you are a bit older, you will not quote Indian statistics with that assurance. The Government are very keen on amassing statistics—they collect them, add them, raise them to the nth power, take the cube root and prepare wonderful diagrams. But what you must never forget is that every one of those figures comes in the first instance from the chowty dar [chowkidar] (village watchman), who just puts down what he damn pleases.
- Thomasina: If there is an equation for a curve like a bell, there must be an equation for one like a bluebell, and if a bluebell, why not a rose? Do we believe nature is written in numbers?
Septimus: We do.
Thomasina: Then why do your shapes describe only the shapes of manufacture?
Septimus: I do not know.
Thomasina: Armed thus, God could only make a cabinet.
- Tom Stoppard, Arcadia (1993)
- There are two kinds of statistics, the kind you look up and the kind you make up.
- The best thing about being a statistician is that you get to play in everyone's backyard
- John Tukey, quoted by David Leonhardt in The New York Times
- Far better an approximate answer to the right question, which is often vague, than an exact answer to the wrong question, which can always be made precise.
- John Tukey (1962). "The future of data analysis". Annals of Mathematical Statistics 33 (1): 13.
- Variant: "An approximate answer to the right question is worth a great deal more than a precise answer to the wrong question." "as the renowned statistician John Tukey once reportedly said," according to Super Freakonomics page 224.
- The combination of some data and an aching desire for an answer does not ensure that a reasonable answer can be extracted from a given body of data.
- John Tukey (1986). "Sunset salvo". The American Statistician.
- The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic.
- Variants: One death is a tragedy. A million deaths is just a statistic.
A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.
When one dies, it is a tragedy. When a million die, it is a statistic.
- This quotation may originate from "Französischer Witz" (1925) by Kurt Tucholsky: "Darauf sagt ein Diplomat vom Quai d'Orsay: «Der Krieg? Ich kann das nicht so schrecklich finden! Der Tod eines Menschen: das ist eine Katastrophe. Hunderttausend Tote: das ist eine Statistik!»" ("To which a Quai d'Orsay diplomat replies: «The war? I can't find it so terrible! The death of one man: that is a catastrophe. One hundred thousand deaths: that is a statistic!»")
- Variants: One death is a tragedy. A million deaths is just a statistic.
- Statistical thinking will one day be as necessary for efficient citizenship as the ability to read or write.
- Attributed to H. G. Wells by Darrell Huff in How to Lie with Statistics (1954), epigraph
- The actual quote referenced mathematics in general rather than statistics:
- The great body of physical science, a great deal of the essential fact of financial science, and endless social and political problems are only accessible and only thinkable to those who have had a sound training in mathematical analysis, and the time may not be very remote when it will be understood that for complete initiation as an efficient citizen of one of the new great complex world-wide States that are now developing, it is as necessary to be able to compute, to think in averages and maxima and minima, as it is now to be able to read and write. [HG Wells 1911, Mankind in the Making 2041]
- Tankard, James W Jr. (February 1979). "The H.G. Wells quote on statistics: A question of accuracy". Historia Mathematica 6 (1): 30-33. DOI:10.1016/0315-0860(79)90101-0.
- According to Tankard: It might be argued that statistics and mathematics were closely related in Wells' mind, and that when he wrote this passage he was to some extent thinking of procedures we would now regard as statistics. That is conjecture, however. Earlier sections of the paragraph deal with arithmetic and geometry, and its literal topic is mathematics. It doesn't contain the word "statistics " even though the term was clearly in use at the time of Well:' writing [Yule 19051].
- Statistics is a body of methods for making wise decisions in the face of uncertainty
- W. Allen Willis and Harry V. Roberts (1956). Statistics: A New Approach. The Free Press. pp. 3.
- While nothing is more uncertain than the duration of a single life, nothing is more certain than the average duration of a thousand lives.
- Attributed to Elizur Wright
- “In God we trust. All others must bring data”, Barry Popik, The Big Apple, October 19, 2015