Talk:Ronald Fisher

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Former good article nominee Ronald Fisher was a good articles nominee, but did not meet the good article criteria at the time. There are suggestions below for improving the article. Once these issues have been addressed, the article can be renominated. Editors may also seek a reassessment of the decision if they believe there was a mistake.
June 23, 2006 Good article nominee Not listed

Null hypothesis[edit]

The infobox declares that he is known for "Coining the term 'null hypothesis'" -- yet there is no mention of this (and in particular when he coined it) in the article. Anyone know first use? From the OED it looks like 1935. quota (talk) 06:00, 29 April 2011 (UTC)

I'm guessing [This is no place for guessing.] that the term "null hypothesis" was coined by Neyman and Egon Pearson, to distinguish the null hypothesis from the alternative hypothesis. Testing hypotheses goes back to Francis Bacon and was discussed by Charles Sanders Peirce and Karl Pearson, before Fisher. I would guess that the Wiley books by Hald (not his Springer book) and the Harvard UP books by Stigler are reliable.  Kiefer.Wolfowitz 23:31, 4 May 2011 (UTC)
I think that Anders Hald is most likely correct that Fisher 'coined the term' null hypothesis. He says this in a terse paragraph:

He characterized estimates as discussed above by the properties of consistency, efficiency and sufficiency, and introduced the concept of "information" in the sample and in an estimate. He coined the terms null hypothesis, test of significance, level of significance, and percentage point. In the design of experiments he introduced randomization, factorial design, and interaction as new concepts.

In context, Hald's claim seems OK. Fisher should get credit for term-coining, but Hald does not say he invented the concept of significance testing, or the null hypothesis. The *concept* of the null hypothesis probably comes from Neyman and Pearson's 1932 paper, where they introduce the symbol H0. They do not call it the null hypothesis. Fisher *does* call it that in his 1935 book, The Design of Experiments, though he does not acknowledge Neyman and Pearson. The fact that he is commenting on their terminology is made obvious by the fact that he mentions the "error of the so-called "second kind" on the following page. The comments are on page 15 of my edition, which is in a whole section called "The Null Hypothesis" in Chapter 2 of the 8th edition of The Design of Experiments, published in 1966, first edition 1935. By saying "coined the term" Hald is avoiding any comment on whether Fisherian significance testing was the same as the kind of testing recommended by Neyman and Pearson. Certainly Fisher thought they were different. So he manages to scold Neyman and Pearson for their errors while taking over their concept and putting a new name on it, "null hypothesis". Pretty clever. So in my opinion the article does not need to be corrected about "coining" but people should check if it assigns credit for the underlying idea in a balanced way. EdJohnston (talk) 19:49, 5 May 2011 (UTC)
That book by Hald sometimes contradicts Hald's more scholarly book, which has been accused of attributing too much to Laplace (and Thiele) before. Unfortunately, I don't have the scholarly book handy. The last yellow book by Hald attributes too much to Fisher, imho, and in the opinion of Hald (blue).
Fisher's polemical ability was extraordinary. You know the saying that mathematical talent is inherited, it passes from the father to the son in law?! It is clear that Fisher's polemical skills passed on to George E. P. Box! :) Fisher popularized randomization, but Hacking and others have insisted on Peirce's priority, but I've inserted those references in enough articles .... Best regards,  Kiefer.Wolfowitz 20:19, 5 May 2011 (UTC)
It is incredible to be going around in your life not knowing the difference beween "coined the term" and "invented the idea or thing". Incredible!

For another example, Bardeen, Brattain, and Shockley of Bell Laboratories invented the transistor, but they did not name it. It is recorded and validated that John R. Pierce, also of Bell Labs, named the thing. See the article on Pierce, and other sources.
In mathematics, Niels Henrik Abel developed the concept of the abelian group, but he did not name it that. Somebody else did. Who did it?
Isaac Newton developed mathematical things in calculus that he called "fluxions" and "fluents", but we don't call them that. Someone else later on named then "derivatives" and "antiderivatives". I would like to know who that was. It couldn't have been the Baron Gottfried von Leibnitz because he was German and he had German (or Latin or Greek) names for them.
Likewise, differential equations and their methods of solution were probably developed by German or Swiss-German mathematicians. Who? Euler? Some of the Bernoullis? However, they had German or Latin names for them, and not the English term "differential equation". Who came up with that name? (talk) 03:26, 10 October 2012 (UTC)

British people so glibly state....[edit]

British people so glibly state, and so often, "When World War II broke out in 1939". I think that it is because of their Eurocentric attitude that they do not know that World War II had already started when the Japanese Empire invaded the Republic of China in 1937 or earlier. They must not recognize the murder of millions of Chinese people during this invasion.
These events were of great concern to the Government of the United States, and President Roosevelt and Secretary of State Cordell Hull spoke out against the Japanese aggression. The U.S. Government was not ready to go to war over those events, but during 1937 - 41, it took other measures against Japan, including setting up embargoes against the export of iron, steel, and petroleum to the Japanese Empire. Also, the U.S. Government decided to export weapons such as fighter planes to the Chinese, but those had to go by cargo ship via Burma. Then in 1942, the Japanese Army overran Burma, including its very important seaport of Rangoon.
During those years, no other country seemed to be willing to do anything to help the Chinese at all: Not the U.K., not the U.S.S.R., not France, not Canada, not Australia... (talk) 03:50, 10 October 2012 (UTC)

Reference for first use of computers in biology[edit]

I have a reference for the bit about the first use of a computer in biology - - but I don't know how to insert it into the article (I don't know Wikipedia markup). — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:37, 30 May 2013 (UTC)

Its fine just to do it as plain text with all the details there. Others can fix it later. You could look at {{cite journal}} or {{citation}} for how to do it properly.--Salix (talk): 14:03, 30 May 2013 (UTC)

Last sentence[edit]

The last sentence says (with several tags), "In 1934, Fisher moved to increase the power of scientists within the Eugenics Society, but was ultimately thwarted by members with an environmentalist point of view, and he, along with many other scientists, resigned." A (poor) source says that the issue causing conflict was contraception. It cites page 97 of the Joan Box biography. I don't have a copy of her book to check. (talk) 18:44, 27 May 2014 (UTC)


The comments here merely confirm my belief we need to separate the strictly biographical from the scientific. the opening is somewhat clearer but the main text focuses far too much on personal detail, given he was a scientist and not an adventurer, whereas our coverage of him as this incredibly significant statistician and biologist tends to got lost but that is what is important. ♫ SqueakBox talk contribs 18:03, 6 July 2015 (UTC)

hi @Squeakbox, Qwfp, and Smasongarrison:. i agree with Squeakbox and Smasongarrison that the Academic career section needs to be re-done. however it does not seem to be a simple case of changing a few sentences here and there, as the current form is formulaic ("date, fisher achieved X. on date 2 (> date 1), fisher then did Y."). i therefore think the section is in need of an entire rewrite, so that the current content in the section could potentially be integrated. this does seem very tricky and non-trivial, given this is sir ronald fisher we are talking about. i think we'd need to read a book on him so that the current content fits nicely. i will start looking. cheers (talk) 00:43, 16 June 2016 (UTC)
update @Squeakbox, Qwfp, and Smasongarrison:: book is super expensive so I won't be able to make the edits i'd like for a while. i really do feel that reading his biography is necessary to fix the issues, unless someone has enough knowledge of this great scientist to go ahead and do it. sorry for the excessive pings, just keeping you posted! (talk) 20:30, 16 June 2016 (UTC)