Statisticians in World War II

Posted to Statistics  |  Tags:  |  Nathan Yau

The Economist recounts the stories of statisticians who solved problems during wartime. Although they weren’t called that until after.

“Peace finally returned, and the statistical scene in the United Kingdom had been completely transformed,” wrote Barnard and Plackett. “No other method would have produced these changes in only six years.” Dozens of clever young people had been taught a fast-changing new subject—and in many cases done original research. Even routine work was elevated by the urgency and camaraderie of the war effort—and even the fact that they were new to the field. “A lot of the work was statistically boring,” Sir David says now. “But the point is that I didn’t really know anything.”

“After the war the section exploded like a London bomb into missionary statistical occupations all over the country,” wrote Geoffrey Jowett, one of the SR 17 alumni, in 1990. “In convincing others that we had a good product to sell we convinced ourselves.”

See also George E.P. Box’s recollection of accidentally becoming a statistician.

Favorites

How to Spot Visualization Lies

Many charts don’t tell the truth. This is a simple guide to spotting them.

The Best Data Visualization Projects of 2011

I almost didn’t make a best-of list this year, but …

Life expectancy changes

The data goes back to 1960 and up to the most current estimates for 2009. Each line represents a country.

10 Best Data Visualization Projects of 2015

These are my picks for the best of 2015. As usual, they could easily appear in a different order on a different day, and there are projects not on the list that were also excellent.