Born in statistics began when he was

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Born in London, England,
on February 17th, 1890, Ronald Aylmer Fisher was born into a wealthy
family that lived in one of the richest and more hospitable parts of London: Hampstead.
The prosperity abruptly ended when Fisher was 14 when his mother died from
peritonitis and his father’s art distribution business closed just a year
later. This forced his family to relocate to a much smaller home in a poor part
of London: Streatham. This event wasn’t a deterrent to Fisher’s education as
his brilliance was rewarded in a scholarship to attended Harrow School. After
graduating Fisher went onto Cambridge as an undergraduate in physics. His
interests included biology and eugenics. This influenced Fisher to start the first
Eugenics club at Cambridge with other members sharing his beliefs that the
socially strong and well educated should produce more offspring than those of
lower social status to improve the social wellbeing of London (Stewart). The
1911 census in the United Kingdom showed an inverse relation between fertility
and social standing, as people of lower social class showed higher fertility
rates. Fisher argued this to be problematic as it would lead to mating
infertility of higher classes, leading to other disastrous results for society.
Fisher carried these beliefs whole heartedly just as his parents did. Fisher
was the youngest of eight children and lived to have 8 children of his own

            Fishers professional career in statistics began when he
was brought onto the Rothamsted Research Station in 1919. His job was to give
advice to farmers about how to produce the best crops based on data from the
past 67 years. Fisher was able to find correlations between crop yields with
different types of fertilizer and rainfall but couldn’t explain the variations
between the years which contradicted his inferences. Fisher looked farther back
into the records and found that the 1850’s farmers used hand weeding done by
boys until 30 years later when education acts stopped this practice. This finding
explained the surge of slender fox tailed grass. During Rothamsted, Fisher’s
work in the field handled numerous data sets, but problems arose when he found
populations to be too large to work with and he needed to find a solution.
Until it was later refined, what Fisher was about to discover would be a basis
of statistical data collecting and experimenting that would change of the world
of statistics for several decades. Fisher introduced randomization into
experimental design giving the laws of chance an unbiased quantitative estimate
due both to environmental conditions and to the variability of the population
being tested. With this, also came the probability of error which were given to
randomization experiments after the estimates were made. One of the most
applicable places for this was Fisher’s own F(Fisher)-ratio which was used to
test small samples of populations for variances. Its use was revolutionary as
it applied to groups of unequal sizes (Clarke). Fisher’s findings influenced
another group of scientists at the University of Edinburgh where Desmond
Patterson and Robin Thompson developed the REML (residual or restricted maximum likelihood) algorithm. This algorithm
took variances from data and then generalized them to unbalanced linear mixed
models (Payne).

            One of Fisher’s greatest achievements wasn’t as a
statistician, but still used statistics as he was a professor of Eugenics at
the University College London (Stewart). At the University, Fisher had
challenging views to Wiener and Levine’s Rhesus system. Wiener’s Rh system had
the possibility of more than one antigen and or antibody that would make a new composition
of the blood groups as a result. Fisher thought the blood composition wouldn’t
yield to have multiple antibodies and antigens but yield a composition consisting
of its own specific antibody and antigen. Fisher used statistics and his
developing notation to experiment with the Rh system to find variances in
molecule compositions when it came to newborns having blood new compositions as
given from both parents. These ideas took some time to finalize as most of
Fisher’s colleagues found his research to be muddle and confusing (Clarke).
Given some time, Fisher put his own spin on the Rh system and developed his own
Fisher-Race notation, which is still used today (Stewart)! Given the time to
properly present his findings Fisher’s success in medicine got him a chair on
the genetics committee at Cambridge in 1943. Further research at Cambridge
found his Rh system to be partially true during allelic testing on cross
breeding locus. Later, American research supported Fisher’s findings when it
was found that people who received blood transfusions had developed hemorrhages
in their ulcers because of donors with different Rh antigens attacking the
receivers blood (Clarke).

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            Fisher’s new ideas and concepts revolutionized how
statisticians collect data and the methodologies along the way (Payne). He
findings used math and statistics took new approaches to solves problems in
fields that he wasn’t too knowledgeable in. His practices and methods were
sometimes questionable as he wasn’t always the best at presenting his findings
or portraying his ideas. His different way of thinking and slight inability to
explain what he meant to people in different fields sometimes didn’t make him
too the most likable or friendly people to talk to (Stewart). He was known as a
kind person that most people would want to talk too but also a man that had a
quick tempter for people that he disagreed with. He was generous and
compassionate with his work and how it was used to help others, even sometimes
giving his findings away without it being credited to himself. 

Categories: Career


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