A Short History of Statistics

The word statistics was first used by a German scholar Gottfried Achenwall in the middle of the 18th century as the science of statecraft concerning the collection and use of data by the state. Here we see the short history of Statistics.

The word statistics comes from the Latin word “Status” or Italian word “Statistia” or German word “Statistik” or the French word “Statistique”; meaning a political state, and originally meant information useful to the state, such as information about sizes of the population (human, animal, products, etc.) and armed forces.

According to pioneer statistician Yule, the word statistics occurred at the earliest in the book “The Element of universal erudition” by Baron (1770). In 1787 a wider definition was used by E.A.W. Zimmermann in “A Political Survey of the Present State of Europe”. It appeared in the Encyclopedia of Britannica in 1797 and was used by Sir John Sinclair in Britain in a series of volumes published between 1791 and 1799 giving a statistical account of Scotland. In the 19th century, the word statistics acquired a wider meaning covering numerical data of almost any subject and also interpretation of data through appropriate analysis. That’s all about the short history of Statistics. Now let us see how statistics is being used in different meanings nowadays.

Short History of Statistics

Now statistics is being used with different meanings.

  • Statistics refers to “numerical facts that are arranged systematically in the form of tables or charts etc. In this sense, it is always used as a plural i.e. a set of numerical information. For instance statistics on prices, road accidents, crimes, births, educational institutions, etc.
  • The word statistics is defined as a discipline that includes procedures and techniques used to collect, process, and analyze numerical data to make inferences and to reach appropriate decisions in situations of uncertainty (uncertainty refers to incompleteness, it does not imply ignorance). In this sense word statistic is used in the singular sense. It denotes the science of basing decisions on numerical data.
  • The word statistics refers to numerical quantities calculated from sample observations; a single quantity calculated from sample observations is called statistics such as the mean. Here word statistics is plural.

“We compute statistics from statistics by statistics”

The first place of statistics is plural of statistics, in second place is plural sense data, and in third place is singular sense methods.

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