Deborah V. Dawson, PhD

It is perhaps not widely appreciated that the development of the discipline of biometry was closely associated with nineteenth century interests in quantitative genetics.  We will explore the preoccupations of the members of the Victorian intellectual community, as they avidly debate the implications of Darwin’s theory of evolution — and focus our attention on the work of the two men most closely associated with the founding of the discipline of biometry — Francis Galton and Karl Pearson.

Francis Galton, who has been called “the last of the gentlemen scientists,” was a renowned African explorer, geographer, scientist and proponent of eugenics (the science of hereditary improvement by selective reproduction).  His pupil, collaborator, and admirer, Karl Pearson, is probably best known to us as a statistical pioneer and founder of Biometrika.  Their extensive scientific inquiries, fired by an intense interest in heredity and eugenics, culminated in the birth of a new science — and in a profusion of new statistical methodology, including such techniques as regression and correlation.  In tracing the lives and accomplishments of these two eminent gentlemen, numerous counterexamples will be provided to the perfidious allegation that “all statisticians are boring!”

Deborah V. Dawson