Ronald Fisher: Biography of this English statistician

Sir Ronald Fisher was a statistician and biologist well known for authoring several equations which are still used today in the world of natural science research.

While his life is largely prolific, being the author of several articles and a great researcher, he is also known to be in favor of eugenics and reject the idea that all people, regardless of race, are equal. .

Let’s see below a biography of Ronald Fisher, Which is marked by chiaroscuro and some controversy.

    Biography of Ronald Fisher

    Below we will see the life of Ronald Fisher, which is characterized by a long scientific career and statistical discoveries, as well as occasional controversies.

    first years

    Ronald Fisher was born in London, England on February 17, 1890, into a middle-class family. Throughout his life he had rather diminished vision, Although he did not achieve blindness, but still prevented him from serving in the British Army during WWI.

    At fourteen enrolled at Harrow School, where he won a medal for his excellent math skills.. This is why, in 1909, he acquired the power to be accepted into Cambridge schools to broaden his mathematical knowledge.

    He then graduated in this science and was able to start working as a statesman.

    Career and training

    During the period from 1913 to 1919, Ronald Fisher worked in the City of London. the, in addition to working as a statesman, he taught physics and mathematics in public schools, Including Thames Nautical Training College and Bradfield College.

    In 1918, he published one of the most popular and prestigious works: The correlation between parents on the supposition of the Mendelian inheritance.

    In this work introduced the concept of variance and proposed its analysis through statistics, And this raises some of the earliest ideas about population genetics. In the text, he showed that natural selection can modify the frequencies of alleles of a given gene in the population.

    Years at Rothamsted

    In 1919 he began working at the Rothamsted Experimental Station, where he remained for 14 years. There he analyzed a large amount of data on studies conducted since 1840.

    The same year, he was offered a place in the Francis Galton laboratory at the University of London, then headed by Karl Pearson. However, Fisher chose to do temporary work at Rothamsted. It was during these years that performed the first application of analysis of variance (ANOVA).

    In his 1924 article entitled On a distribution giving the error functions of several well-known statistics, he presented together several statistical tests, including Pearson’s chi-square and William Gosset’s Student’s t.

    It is in this document that he introduces a new statistical method, which decades later would be known as Fisher’s F.

    In 1931 he stayed six weeks at the Iowa Statistical Laboratory, where he lectured several times and had the opportunity to meet several statesmen, including George W. Snedecor.

    Years in London

    In 1933, Fisher took over the head of the eugenics department at University College London.

    In 1935 he published The Design of Experiments, a book in which he explained how important it was to use statistical techniques to justify research methods.

    In 1937 he published an article, The Advancing Wave of Advantageous People, in which propose an equation to explain the expansion of advantageous alleles of a given gene in the population. In this article, he introduced one of the most famous equations in statistics, the Fisher-Kolmogorov equation.

    In the same year, he visited the Institute of Statistics of India in Calcutta, where he had the opportunity to know great minds in the discipline of the Indian subcontinent.

    In 1938, with Frank Yates, describes the Fisher-Yates algorithm, Mathematical calculation the initial aim was to serve research in biology, medicine and agriculture.

      private life

      Ronald Fisher married Eileen Guinnes, with whom he had two sons and six daughters. The marriage broke up after World War II, a conflict in which one of her children died in action.

      Sinner he was a follower of the Church of England and an extremely conservative lean, Although also a great scientist and an advocate of rationalism in research. In academia, he was known to be the typical cloud teacher, more concerned with explaining the content of the hiking lesson rather than anchoring it to a strict classroom script. He was also known to place little importance on his dress style, dressing rather casually.

      One of the most striking things about Fisher is that he was a member of the Society for Psychic Research, An organization that is responsible for investigating paranormal events, but from a more or less scientific perspective and trying to put aside pseudoscientific and mythological interpretations of them.

      last years

      In 1957, Fisher retired and decided to emigrate to Australia, where he obtained a post as Research Fellow at the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) in Adelaide. It was in this same city that he died on July 29, 1962.


      Although Fisher was a great scientist, he had a vision of the organization of humanity on the basis of eugenic and racist pretexts.

      In 1910 he joined the British Eugenic Society at the University of Cambridge. Fisher saw eugenics as a good way to deal with social pressures.

      In his book The Genetic Theory of Natural Selection, he explained that one of the reasons great civilizations fell was because their most powerful classes, at one point in history, had been less fertile, ensure that the lower classes, seen as inferior, have more weight in society demographically speaking, which ultimately implied a greater socio-political weight of the same.

      In 1950, Fisher was opposed to the debate on the racial question proposed by UNESCO, believing that there was strong evidence to support the idea that races were significantly different and that therefore there should be differences in the race. treatment that must be done towards individuals of the same person. .

      Controversy with tobacco research

      Fisher openly criticized research conducted in 1950 that linked smoking to cancer. Research in particular has claimed that tobacco is the root cause of the disease.

      However, Fisher did not consider this statement to be correct because correlation does not imply causationIn other words, two events occurring more or less uniformly do not necessarily imply that one causes the other. Some say that Fisher voiced this criticism for being a heavy smoker and that it was also suspected that the tobacco industry had bribed him to support her.

      However, this is not true, because what he was doing was simply stating that stating that one factor, in this case smoking tobacco, was the most responsible for the other, in this case cancer, was not strictly true.

      even if today, no one doubts the harmfulness of tobacco consumptionYes, an important lesson can be learned from this anecdote: one should not believe that for two or more things to happen at the same time, they are responsible for each other, which a lot of research and media fail to achieve. not to be said without proper evidence. .

      Bibliographical references:

      • Fisher-Box, J. (1978) Ronald Fisher: The Life of a Scientist, New York: Wiley, ISBN 0-471-09300-9.
      • Salsburg, D. (2002) The Lady Tasting Tea: How Statistics Revolutionized Science in the Twentieth Century, ISBN 0-8050-7134-2.

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