Karl Pearson

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Karl pearson)
Jump to: navigation, search
For the English cricketer, see Karl Pearson (cricketer).
Karl Pearson
Portrait of Karl Pearson.jpg
Portrait of Karl Pearson, by Elliott & Fry, 1890.
Born Carl Pearson
(1857-03-27)27 March 1857
Islington, London, England
Died 27 April 1936(1936-04-27) (aged 79)
Coldharbour, Surrey, England
Residence England
Nationality British
Fields Lawyer, Germanist, eugenicist, mathematician and statistician (primarily the last)
Institutions University College London
King's College, Cambridge
Alma mater University of Cambridge
University of Heidelberg
Academic advisors Francis Galton
Notable students Philip Hall
John Wishart
Julia Bell
Known for Pearson distribution
Pearson's r
Pearson's chi-squared test
Phi coefficient
Influenced Albert Einstein, Henry Ludwell Moore, James Arthur Harris
Notable awards Darwin Medal (1898)

Karl Pearson FRS[1] (/ˈpɪərsən/; originally named Carl; 27 March 1857 – 27 April 1936[2]) was an influential English mathematician and biometrician. He has been credited with establishing the discipline of mathematical statistics,[3][4] and contributed significantly to the field of biometrics, meteorology, theories of social Darwinism and eugenics.[5] A major proponent of eugenics, Pearson was also a protégé and biographer of Sir Francis Galton.

In 1911 he founded the world's first university statistics department at University College London. A sesquicentenary conference was held in London on 23 March 2007, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of his birth.[3]

Family[edit]

Carl Pearson, later known as Karl Pearson (1857–1936), was born to William Pearson and Fanny Smith, who had three children, Arthur (later Arthur Pearson-Gee), Carl (Karl) and Amy. William Pearson also sired an illegitimate son, Frederick Mockett.

Pearson's mother came from a family of master mariners who sailed their own ships from Hull; his father came from Crambe, North Riding of Yorkshire, read law at Edinburgh and eventually became a successful barrister and Queen's Counsel (QC).

"Carl Pearson" inadvertently became "Karl" when he enrolled at the University of Heidelberg in 1879, which changed the spelling. He used both variants of his name until 1884 when he finally adopted Karl. Eventually he was universally known as "KP".

KP was an accomplished historian and Germanist. He spent much of the 1880s in Berlin, Heidelberg, Vienna[citation needed], Saig bei Lenzkirch, and Brixlegg. He wrote on Passion plays,[6] religion, Goethe, Werther, as well as sex-related themes,[7] and was a founder of the Men and Women's Club.[8]

In 1890 he married Maria Sharpe, who was related to the Kenrick, Reid, Rogers and Sharpe families, late 18th century and 19th century non-conformists largely associated with north London; they included:

  • Samuel Rogers, poet (1763–1855)
  • Sutton Sharpe (1797–1843), barrister
  • Samuel Sharpe, Egyptologist and philanthropist (1799–1881)
  • John Kenrick, a non-Conformist minister (1788–1877).

Karl and Maria Pearson had two daughters, Sigrid Loetitia Pearson and Helga Sharpe Pearson, and one son, Egon Sharpe Pearson, who became an eminent statistician himself and succeeded his father as head of the Applied Statistics Department at University College. Maria died in 1928 and in 1929 Karl married Margaret Victoria Child, a co-worker in the Biometric Laboratory.

He and his family lived at 7 Well Road in Hampstead, now marked with a blue plaque.[9]

Education and early work[edit]

Galton aged 87, with Karl Pearson.

Karl Pearson was educated privately at University College School, after which he went to King's College, Cambridge in 1876 to study mathematics,[10] graduating in 1879 as Third Wrangler in the Mathematical Tripos. He then travelled to Germany to study physics at the University of Heidelberg under G H Quincke and metaphysics under Kuno Fischer. He next visited the University of Berlin, where he attended the lectures of the famous physiologist Emil du Bois-Reymond on Darwinism (Emil was a brother of Paul du Bois-Reymond, the mathematician). Other subjects which he studied in Berlin included Roman Law, taught by Bruns and Mommsen, medieval and 16th century German Literature, and Socialism. He was strongly influenced by the courses he attended at this time and he became sufficiently expert on German literature that he was offered a Germanics post at Kings College, Cambridge. But compared to Cambridge students, physically developed by athletics, Karl found German students weak. He wrote his mother, "I used to think athletics and sport was overestimated at Cambridge, but now I think it cannot be too highly valued."[11]

On returning to England in 1880, Pearson first went to Cambridge:

Back in Cambridge, I worked in the engineering shops, but drew up the schedule in Mittel- and Althochdeutsch for the Medieval Languages Tripos.[12]

In his first book, The New Werther, Pearson gives a clear indication of why he studied so many diverse subjects:

I rush from science to philosophy, and from philosophy to our old friends the poets; and then, over-wearied by too much idealism, I fancy I become practical in returning to science. Have you ever attempted to conceive all there is in the world worth knowing—that not one subject in the universe is unworthy of study? The giants of literature, the mysteries of many-dimensional space, the attempts of Boltzmann and Crookes to penetrate Nature's very laboratory, the Kantian theory of the universe, and the latest discoveries in embryology, with their wonderful tales of the development of life—what an immensity beyond our grasp! [...] Mankind seems on the verge of a new and glorious discovery. What Newton did to simplify the planetary motions must now be done to unite in one whole the various isolated theories of mathematical physics.[13]

Pearson then returned to London to study law so that he might, like his father, be called to the Bar. Quoting Pearson's own account:

Coming to London, I read in chambers in Lincoln's Inn, drew up bills of sale, and was called to the Bar, but varied legal studies by lecturing on heat at Barnes, on Martin Luther at Hampstead, and on Lassalle and Marx on Sundays at revolutionary clubs around Soho.[12]

His next career move was to Inner Temple, where he read law until 1881 (although he never practised). After this, he returned to mathematics, deputising for the mathematics professor at King's College London in 1881 and for the professor at University College London in 1883. In 1884, he was appointed to the Goldsmid Chair of Applied Mathematics and Mechanics at University College London. Pearson became the editor of Common Sense of the Exact Sciences (1885) when William Kingdon Clifford passed on. 1891 saw him also appointed to the professorship of Geometry at Gresham College; here he met Walter Frank Raphael Weldon, a zoologist who had some interesting problems requiring quantitative solutions.[14] The collaboration, in biometry and evolutionary theory, was a fruitful one and lasted until Weldon died in 1906.[15] Weldon introduced Pearson to Charles Darwin's cousin Francis Galton, who was interested in aspects of evolution such as heredity and eugenics. Pearson became Galton's protégé—his "statistical heir" as some have put it—at times to the verge of hero worship.

After Galton's death in 1911, Pearson embarked on producing his definitive biography—a three-volume tome of narrative, letters, genealogies, commentaries, and photographs—published in 1914, 1924, and 1930, with much of Pearson's own financing paying for their print runs. The biography, done "to satisfy myself and without regard to traditional standards, to the needs of publishers or to the tastes of the reading public", triumphed Galton's life, work, and personal heredity. He predicted that Galton, rather than Charles Darwin, would be remembered as the most prodigious grandson of Erasmus Darwin.

When Galton died, he left the residue of his estate to the University of London for a Chair in Eugenics. Pearson was the first holder of this chair—the Galton Chair of Eugenics, later the Galton Chair of Genetics[16]—in accordance with Galton's wishes. He formed the Department of Applied Statistics (with financial support from the Drapers' Company), into which he incorporated the Biometric and Galton laboratories. He remained with the department until his retirement in 1933, and continued to work until his death in 1936.

Einstein and Pearson's work[edit]

When the 23-year-old Albert Einstein started a study group, the Olympia Academy, with his two younger friends, Maurice Solovine and Conrad Habicht, he suggested that the first book to be read was Pearson's The Grammar of Science. This book covered several themes that were later to become part of the theories of Einstein and other scientists.[17] Pearson asserted that the laws of nature are relative to the perceptive ability of the observer. Irreversibility of natural processes, he claimed, is a purely relative conception. An observer who travels at the exact velocity of light would see an eternal now, or an absence of motion. He speculated that an observer who travelled faster than light would see time reversal, similar to a cinema film being run backwards. Pearson also discussed antimatter, the fourth dimension, and wrinkles in time.

Pearson's relativity was based on idealism, in the sense of ideas or pictures in a mind. "There are many signs," he wrote, "that a sound idealism is surely replacing, as a basis for natural philosophy, the crude materialism of the older physicists." (Preface to 2nd Ed., The Grammar of Science) Further, he stated, "...science is in reality a classification and analysis of the contents of the mind..." "In truth, the field of science is much more consciousness than an external world." (Ibid., Ch. II, § 6) "Law in the scientific sense is thus essentially a product of the human mind and has no meaning apart from man." (Ibid., Ch. III, § 4)[18]

Politics and eugenics[edit]

Karl Pearson at work, 1910.

A eugenicist who applied his social Darwinism to entire nations, Pearson saw "war" against "inferior races" as a logical implication of his scientific work on human measurement: "My view – and I think it may be called the scientific view of a nation," he wrote, "is that of an organized whole, kept up to a high pitch of internal efficiency by insuring that its numbers are substantially recruited from the better stocks, and kept up to a high pitch of external efficiency by contest, chiefly by way of war with inferior races."[19] He reasoned that, if August Weismann's theory of germ plasm is correct, the nation is wasting money when it tries to improve people who come from poor stock.

Weismann claimed that acquired characteristics could not be inherited. Therefore, training benefits only the trained generation. Their children will not exhibit the learned improvements and, in turn, will need to be improved. "No degenerate and feeble stock will ever be converted into healthy and sound stock by the accumulated effects of education, good laws, and sanitary surroundings. Such means may render the individual members of a stock passable if not strong members of society, but the same process will have to be gone through again and again with their offspring, and this in ever-widening circles, if the stock, owing to the conditions in which society has placed it, is able to increase its numbers."[20]

"History shows me one way, and one way only, in which a high state of civilization has been produced, namely, the struggle of race with race, and the survival of the physically and mentally fitter race. If you want to know whether the lower races of man can evolve a higher type, I fear the only course is to leave them to fight it out among themselves, and even then the struggle for existence between individual and individual, between tribe and tribe, may not be supported by that physical selection due to a particular climate on which probably so much of the Aryan's success depended."[21]

Pearson was known in his lifetime as a prominent "freethinker" and socialist. He gave lectures on such issues as "the woman's question" (this was the era of the suffragist movement in the UK)[22] and upon Karl Marx. His commitment to socialism and its ideals led him to refuse the offer of being created an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) in 1920 and also to refuse a knighthood in 1935.

In The Myth of the Jewish Race[23] Raphael and Jennifer Patai cite Karl Pearson's 1925 opposition (in the first issue of the journal Annals of Eugenics which he founded) to Jewish immigration into Britain. Pearson alleged that these immigrants "will develop into a parasitic race. [...] Taken on the average, and regarding both sexes, this alien Jewish population is somewhat inferior physically and mentally to the native population".[24]

Awards from professional bodies[edit]

Pearson achieved widespread recognition across a range of disciplines and his membership of, and awards from, various professional bodies reflects this:

  • 1896: elected FRS: Fellow of the Royal Society[2]
  • 1898: awarded the Darwin Medal[25]
  • 1911: awarded the honorary degree of LLD from the University of St Andrews
  • 1911: awarded a DSc from University of London
  • 1920: offered (and refused) the OBE
  • 1932: awarded the Rudolf Virchow medal by the Berliner Anthropologische Gesellschaft
  • 1935: offered (and refused) a knighthood

He was also elected an Honorary Fellow of King's College Cambridge, the Royal Society of Edinburgh, University College London and the Royal Society of Medicine, and a Member of the Actuaries' Club.

Contributions to statistics[edit]

Pearson's work was all-embracing in the wide application and development of mathematical statistics, and encompassed the fields of biology, epidemiology, anthropometry, medicine, psychology and social history.[26] In 1901, with Weldon and Galton, he founded the journal Biometrika whose object was the development of statistical theory.[27] He edited this journal until his death. Among those who assisted Pearson in his research were a number of female mathematicians who included Beatrice Mabel Cave-Browne-Cave and Frances Cave-Browne-Cave. He also founded the journal Annals of Eugenics (now Annals of Human Genetics) in 1925. He published the Drapers' Company Research Memoirs largely to provide a record of the output of the Department of Applied Statistics not published elsewhere.

Pearson's thinking underpins many of the 'classical' statistical methods which are in common use today. Examples of his contributions are:

Résumé of academic career[edit]

  • Third Wrangler in Mathematics Tripos, Cambridge University, 1879
  • Studied medieval and sixteenth-century German literature, Berlin and Heidelberg Universities, 1879–1880
  • Read law, called to the Bar by Inner Temple, 1881
  • Delivered lectures on mathematics, philosophy and German literature at societies and clubs devoted to adult education
  • Deputised for the Professor of Mathematics, King's College London, 1881, and for the Professor of Mathematics at University College London, 1883
  • Formed the Men and Women's Club, with some others, to discuss equality between the sexes
  • Appointed to Goldsmid Chair of Applied Mathematics and Mechanics, University College London, 1884
  • Appointed Professor of Geometry, Gresham College, 1891
  • Collaborated with Walter Frank Raphael Weldon, Professor of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy, in biometry and evolutionary theory, 1891–1906
  • Elected Fellow of the Royal Society, 1896
  • Founded journal Biometrika with Weldon and Francis Galton founder of the School of Eugenics at University College London, 1901
  • Appointed first Galton Professor of Eugenics, University College London, 1911
  • Formed Department of Applied Statistics incorporating the Biometric Laboratory and Galton Laboratory, University College London
  • Founded journal Annals of Eugenics, 1925

Publications[edit]

Articles

Miscellany

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Yule, G. U.; Filon, L. N. G. (1936). "Karl Pearson. 1857-1936". Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society 2 (5): 72. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1936.0007. JSTOR 769130.  edit
  2. ^ a b "Library and Archive catalogue". Sackler Digital Archive. Royal Society. Retrieved 1 July 2011. 
  3. ^ a b "Karl Pearson sesquicentenary conference". Royal Statistical Society. 3 March 2007. Retrieved 25 July 2008. 
  4. ^ "[...] the founder of modern statistics, Karl Pearson." – Bronowski, Jacob (1978). The Common Sense of Science, Harvard University Press, p. 128.
  5. ^ "The Concept of Heredity in the History of Western Culture: Part One," The Mankind Quarterly, Vol. XXXV, No. 3, p. 237.
  6. ^ Pearson, Karl (1897). "The German Passion-Play: A Study in the Evolution of Western Christianity," in The Chances of Death and Other Studies in Evolution. London: Edward Arnold, pp. 246–406.
  7. ^ Pearson, Karl (1888). "A Sketch of the Sex-Relations in Primitive and Mediæval Germany," in The Ethic of Freethought. London: T. Fisher Unwin, pp. 395–426.
  8. ^ Walkowitz, Judith R., History Workshop Journal 1986 21(1):37–59, p 37
  9. ^ "Karl Pearson Blue Plaque," at Openplaques.org.
  10. ^ "Pearson, Carl (or Karl) (PR875CK)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 
  11. ^ Warwick, Andrew (2003). "4: Exercising the student body: Mathematics, manliness and athleticism". Masters of theory: Cambridge and the rise of mathematical physics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 176–226. ISBN 0-226-87375-7. 
  12. ^ a b Pearson, Karl (1934). Speeches Delivered at a Dinner Held in University College, London, in Honour of Professor Karl Pearson, 23 April 1934. Cambridge University Press, p. 20.
  13. ^ Pearson, Karl (1880). The New Werther. London: C, Kegan Paul & Co., pp. 6, 96.
  14. ^ Provine, William B. (2001). The Origins of Theoretical Population Genetics. University of Chicago Press, p. 29.
  15. ^ Tankard, James W. (1984). The Statistical Pioneers, Schenkman Pub. Co.
  16. ^ Blaney, Tom (2011). The Chief Sea Lion's Inheritance: Eugenics and the Darwins. Troubador Pub., p. 108. Also see Pearson, Roger (1991). Race, Intelligence and Bias in Academe. Scott-Townsend Publishers.
  17. ^ Herbert, Christopher (2001). "Karl Pearson and the Human Form Divine," in Victorian Relativity: Radical Thought and Scientific Discovery, Chicago University Press, pp. 145–179.
  18. ^ Pearson, Karl (1900). The Grammar of Science. London: Adam & Charles Black, pp. vii, 52, 87.
  19. ^ Pearson, Karl (1901). National Life from the Standpoint of Science. London: Adam & Charles Black, pp. 43–44.
  20. ^ Pearson, Karl (1892). Introduction to The Grammar of Science. London: Water Scott, p. 32.
  21. ^ Pearson, Karl (1901). National Life from the Standpoint of Science. London: Adam & Charles Black, pp. 19–20.
  22. ^ Pearson, Karl (1888). "The Woman's Question," in The Ethic of Freethought. London: T. Fisher Unwin, pp. 370–394.
  23. ^ Patai, Raphael, & Jennifer Patai (1989). The Myth of the Jewish Race. Wayne State University Press, p. 146. ISBN 978-0814319482
  24. ^ Pearson, Karl, & Moul, Margaret (1925). "The Problem of Alien Immigration into Great Britain, Illustrated by an Examination of Russian and Polish Jewish Children", Part II, Annals of Eugenics, Vol. I, No. 2, pp. 125–126.
  25. ^ "PEARSON, Karl". Who's Who, 59: p. 1373. 1907. 
  26. ^ Mackenzie, Donald (1981). Statistics in Britain, 1865–1930: The Social Construction of Scientific Knowledge, Edinburgh University Press.
  27. ^ Hald, Anders (1998). A History of Mathematical Statistics from 1750 to 1930. Wiley, p. 651.
  28. ^ Stigler, S. M. (1989). "Francis Galton's Account of the Invention of Correlation". Statistical Science 4 (2): 73–79. doi:10.1214/ss/1177012580. 
  29. ^ a b c d Pearson, K. (1900). "On the Criterion that a given System of Deviations from the Probable in the Case of a Correlated System of Variables is such that it can be reasonably supposed to have arisen from Random Sampling". Philosophical Magazine Series 5 50 (302): 157–175. doi:10.1080/14786440009463897. 
  30. ^ Neyman, J.; Pearson, E. S. (1928). "On the use and interpretation of certain test criteria for purposes of statistical inference". Biometrika 20: 175–240. 
  31. ^ Pearson, K. (1901). "On Lines and Planes of Closest Fit to Systems of Points is Space". Philosophical Magazine Series 6 2 (11): 559–572. doi:10.1080/14786440109462720. 
  32. ^ Jolliffe, I. T. (2002). Principal Component Analysis, 2nd ed. New York: Springer-Verlag.

Most of the biographical information above is taken from the Karl Pearson page at the Department of Statistical Sciences at University College London, which has been placed in the public domain. The main source for that page was A list of the papers and correspondence of Karl Pearson (1857–1936) held in the Manuscripts Room, University College London Library, compiled by M. Merrington, B. Blundell, S. Burrough, J. Golden and J. Hogarth and published by the Publications Office, University College London, 1983.

Additional information from entry for Karl Pearson in the Sackler Digital Archive of the Royal Society

Further reading[edit]

  • Eisenhart, Churchill (1974). Dictionary of Scientific Biography, 10, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, pp. 447–473.
  • Norton, Bernard J. (1978). "Karl Pearson and Statistics: The Social Origins of Scientific Innovation," Social Studies of Science, Vol. 8, No. 1, pp. 3–34.
  • Pearson, E. S. (1938). Karl Pearson: An Appreciation of Some Aspects of his Life and Work. Cambridge University Press.
  • Porter, T. M. (2004). Karl Pearson: The Scientific Life in a Statistical Age, Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-12635-7.

External links[edit]