Manchester Statistical Society

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Manchester Statistical Society is a learned society founded in 1833 in Manchester, England. It claims to be "the first organisation in Britain to study social problems systematically and to collect statistics for social purposes"[1] and in 1834 was "the first organisation to carry out a house-to-house social survey".[2][page needed] The first of around 20 such societies that were either mooted or actually formed in the early Victorian period, only this and that which was then known as the London Statistical Society still exist.[3]

Those who were most concerned with the public health consequences of the rapidly expanding, industrialising city of Manchester in the early years of the Manchester Statistical Society (MSS) came mainly from relatively new, minor medical charities such as the Manchester Lying-in Hospital, the Chorlton Dispensary and the Ardwick and Ancoats Dispensary rather than being leaders of the city's medical profession who were based at medical schools and the Manchester Infirmary. John Roberton came from the first of these new charities and was the driving force of the Society in the 1840s, sharing an interest in collation and interpretation of medical statistics with fellow members such as James Kay. Their efforts followed those made by Thomas Percival and John Ferriar, who had made significant medical advances at the Manchester Infirmary in the late-eighteenth century before that institution became overwhelmed by the demands being placed upon it by the city's growth. The pioneering work of the MSS in the sphere of public health issues was in turn followed by the reinvigorated interest of more senior medical practitioners and members of society after the introduction of the Public Health Act of 1848 and the formation of the Manchester and Salford Sanitary Association in 1852.[4]

John Pickstone, a medical historian, says that the MSS

... was associated with the resurgence of Manchester liberalism, with moves for central and local government reform and with new, regional, groupings of doctors. In their new societies the leaders of local medicine and surgery sought to show that they were scientific professionals not just tradesmen; intellectual and aware investigators, even though they were in provincial cities rather than London or Edinburgh.[4]

The society continues to date and holds regular meetings.[5] Past presidents include two Nobel Laureates in economics, John Hicks and Arthur Lewis.


  1. ^ "Manchester Statistical Society's History". Manchester Statistical Society. Retrieved 2 May 2014. 
  2. ^ Ashton, Thomas S. (1977) [1934]. Economic and Social Investigations in Manchester, 1833-1933. Brighton: The Harvester Press. ISBN 0-85527-025-X. 
  3. ^ O'Brien, Christopher (January 2011). "The origins and originators of early statistical societies: a comparison of Liverpool and Manchester". Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. Series A (Statistics in Society) (Wiley) 174 (1): 51–62. doi:10.1111/j.1467-985X.2010.00649.x. 
  4. ^ a b Pickstone, John (19–26 December 1987). "Manchester's History And Manchester's Medicine". British Medical Journal (Clinical Research Edition) (BMJ Publishing Group) 295 (6613): 1604–1608. doi:10.1136/bmj.295.6613.1604. JSTOR 29529232. 
  5. ^ MSS website

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