Facts and Figures
Facts About Statistics
is the study of the collection, organization, analysis, interpretation and presentation of data. It deals with all aspects of data, including the planning of data collection in terms of the design of surveys and experiments.
The word statistics, when referring to the scientific discipline, is singular, as in "Statistics is an art." This should not be confused with the word statistic, referring to a quantity (such as mean or median) calculated from a set of data, whose plural is statistics ("this statistic seems wrong" or "these statistics are misleading").
Statistical methods date back at least to the 5th century BC. The earliest known writing on statistics appears in a 9th-century book entitled Manuscript on Deciphering Cryptographic Messages, written by Al-Kindi. In this book, Al-Kindi provides a detailed description of how to use statistics and frequency analysis to decipher encrypted messages. This was the birth of both statistics and cryptanalysis, according to the Saudi engineer Ibrahim Al-Kadi.
The Nuova Cronica, a 14th-century history of Florence by the Florentine banker and official Giovanni Villani, includes much statistical information on population, ordinances, commerce, education, and religious facilities, and has been described as the first introduction of statistics as a positive element in history.
Some scholars pinpoint the origin of statistics to 1663, with the publication of Natural and Political Observations upon the Bills of Mortality by John Graunt. Early applications of statistical thinking revolved around the needs of states to base policy on demographic and economic data, hence its stat- etymology. The scope of the discipline of statistics broadened in the early 19th century to include the collection and analysis of data in general. Today, statistics is widely employed in government, business, and natural and social sciences.
Its mathematical foundations were laid in the 17th century with the development of the probability theory by Blaise Pascal and Pierre de Fermat. Probability theory arose from the study of games of chance. The method of least squares was first described by Adrien-Marie Legendre in 1805. The use of modern computers has expedited large-scale statistical computation, and has also made possible new methods that are impractical to perform manually.
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