Ronald Aylmer Fisher

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Sir Ronald Aylmer Fisher (born February 17, 1890 in London , England , † July 29, 1962 in Adelaide , Australia ) was a British statistician , geneticist , evolutionary theorist and eugenicist .


Ronald Fisher (1913)

Fisher was born in London in 1890. He graduated from Cambridge University with a BA in Mathematics in 1912 .

On Fisher's initiative, the Cambridge University Eugenics Society was founded in May 1911 , of which Fisher became chairman and spokesman. He advocated eugenics and took what is sometimes referred to as positive eugenics , according to which upper classes should receive incentives for higher numbers of children; at the same time, members of other classes should not be prevented from doing so. His work on the errors in astronomical calculations, along with his interest in genetics, led to his work in statistics . From 1919 he worked at the Rothamsted Experimental Station . In 1933 he became Professor of Eugenics at University College London , and from there he moved in 1943 to the Balfour Chair of Genetics at Cambridge.

Ronald Aylmer Fisher was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1934 , the American Philosophical Society in 1941, and the National Academy of Sciences in 1948 . In 1950 he was one of the most prominent opponents of the UNESCO declaration "The Race Concept", which in his view interfered with science in a doctrinal way.

He received numerous awards for his work, e. B. 1938 the Royal Medal of the Royal Society . In 1952, he was by Queen Elizabeth II. The Knights defeated. In 1959 he received the Darwin badge . In 1960 he was elected a member of the Leopoldina . Retired, he spent some time in Adelaide, Australia, where he died in 1962.


Contributions to statistics

Fisher led the maximum likelihood principle and the Fisher information and also the statistical method of analysis of variance ( English analysis of variance , in short, ANOVA ) is primarily attributable to him. He made significant contributions to the statistical design of experiments and postulated the theoretical concepts of sufficiency and freedom of distribution ( English ancillary statistic ). This made him one of the most important statisticians of the 20th century.

His article On a distribution yielding the error functions of several well known statistics presents Karl Pearson's chi-square distribution and Student's t-distribution in the same probabilistic framework as the normal distribution and the F- distribution named after him ( F for Fisher ). Fisher's book Statistical methods for research workers describes how these distributions can be used.

With The use of multiple measurements in taxonomic problems (1936) he introduced the Fisherman's discriminant function , which is the basis for the development of discriminant analysis .

Contributions to the theory of evolution

In his book Genetical Theory of Natural Selection , published in 1930 , he built on the work of Charles Darwin . He received support for the book from Leonard Darwin , Charles Darwin's son. In his book, Fisher showed how, within sexual selection, a sexual preference for a certain trait, even if it is only peculiar to a part of the population, generates increased selection pressure on this trait that goes beyond the selection pressure of natural selection. He called this a runaway process ( runaway selection ). In the final chapters of the book, he also hypothesized a relationship between the decline of civilizations and decreased fertility in the upper classes.


British biologist Richard Dawkins describes Ronald Aylmer Fisher as “ Darwin's greatest successor of the 20th century.” Statistics historian Anders Hald writes: “Fisher was a genius who almost single-handedly laid the foundations for modern statistics.”

Popular culture

The rock band Fischer-Z was named after Fishers Z.

See also



  • Statistical methods for research workers . 1925, ISBN 0-05-002170-2 .
  • The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection . 1930, ISBN 0-19-850440-3 .
  • The design of experiments . 1935
  • Statistical tables for biological, agricultural and medical research . 1938 (with Frank Yates )
  • The theory of inbreeding . 1949
  • Contributions to mathematical statistics . 1950
  • Statistical methods and statistical inference . 1956

Article (selection)

  • Some Hopes of a Eugenist , Eugenic Review 5 : 309–315, 1914 PMC 2986993 (free full text)
  • Frequency distribution of the values ​​of the correlation coefficient in samples from an indefinitely large population , Biometrika 10 : 507-521, 1915 doi: 10.1093 / biomet / 10.4.507
  • The correlation between relatives on the supposition of Mendelian inheritance , Trans. Roy. Soc. Edinb. 52 : 399–433, 1918 doi: 10.1017 / S0080456800012163 (In this article the term variance is first introduced into statistics and probability theory.)
  • On the mathematical foundations of theoretical statistics , Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A 222 : 309-368, 1922 doi: 10.1098 / rsta.1922.0009
  • On the dominance ratio , Proc. Roy. Soc. Edinb. 42 : 321-341, 1922 doi: 10.1017 / S0370164600023993
  • On a distribution yielding the error functions of several well known statistics , Proc. Int. Cong. Math., Toronto, 2 : 805-813, 1924
  • Theory of statistical estimation , Proceedings of the Cambridge Philosophical Society 22 : 700-725, 1925 doi: 10.1017 / S0305004100009580
  • Applications of Student's distribution , Metron 5 : 90-104, 1925
  • The arrangement of field experiments , J. Min. Agric. G. Br. 33 : 503-513, 1926
  • The general sampling distribution of the multiple correlation coefficient , Proceedings of Royal Society A 121 : 654-673, 1928 doi: 10.1098 / rspa. 1928.0224
  • Two new properties of mathematical likelihood , Proceedings of Royal Society A 144 : 285-307, 1934 doi: 10.1098 / rspa.1934.0050
  • The use of multiple measurements in taxonomic problems in Annals of Eugenics 7 : 179-188, 1936 doi: 10.1111 / j.1469-1809.1936.tb02137.x


  • Joam Fisher Box: RA Fisher: The Life of a Scientist . 1st edition. John Wiley & Sons Inc, New York 1978, ISBN 0-471-09300-9 .
  • F. Yates, K. Mather: Ronald Aylmer Fisher. 1890-1962 . In: Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society . tape 9 , 1963, pp. 91-129 , doi : 10.1098 / rsbm.1963.0006 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Veronica di Mambro: The University of Cambridge Eugenics Society from 1911-13 and 1930-33 and reasons for its ultimate demise. (No longer available online.) In: The Galton Institute Newsletter No. 48, June-September 2003. Galton Institute, archived from the original on June 14, 2011 ; accessed on August 15, 2010 . Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  2. ^ Member History: Ronald A. Fisher. American Philosophical Society, accessed August 6, 2018 .
  3. ^ UNESCO, Paris 1952: The Race Concept. Pp. 31-32.
  4. Member entry of Sir Ronald Fisher at the German Academy of Natural Scientists Leopoldina , accessed on October 22, 2015.
  5. ^ Daniel J. Kevles: In the name of eugenics: genetics and the uses of human heredity. University of California Press, 1985, ISBN 0-520-05763-5 , p. 181.
  6. Richard Dawkins: River out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life. London, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1995, ISBN 0-297-81540-7 , quotation on p. 38. German translation: And a river sprang from Eden . C. Bertelsmann Verlag 1996, ISBN 3-570-12006-6 . Quote: " Darwin’s greatest twentieth-century successor."
  7. Anders Hald: A History of Parametric Statistical Inference from Bernoulli to Fisher, 1713 to 1935. Department of applied Mathematics and Statistics, University of Copenhagen, 2004, ISBN 87-7834-628-2 , quoted on p. 147: “Fisher was a genius who almost single-handedly created the foundations for modern statistical science. "