William Sealy Gosset

Encyclopedia

**William Sealy Gosset**is famous as a statistician

Statistician

A statistician is someone who works with theoretical or applied statistics. The profession exists in both the private and public sectors. The core of that work is to measure, interpret, and describe the world and human activity patterns within it...

, best known by his pen name

**and for his work on Student's t-distribution.**

*Student*Born in Canterbury

Canterbury

Canterbury is a historic English cathedral city, which lies at the heart of the City of Canterbury, a district of Kent in South East England. It lies on the River Stour....

, England

England

England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

to Agnes Sealy Vidal and Colonel Frederic Gosset, Gosset attended Winchester College

Winchester College

Winchester College is an independent school for boys in the British public school tradition, situated in Winchester, Hampshire, the former capital of England. It has existed in its present location for over 600 years and claims the longest unbroken history of any school in England...

before reading chemistry

Chemistry

Chemistry is the science of matter, especially its chemical reactions, but also its composition, structure and properties. Chemistry is concerned with atoms and their interactions with other atoms, and particularly with the properties of chemical bonds....

and mathematics

Mathematics

Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

at New College, Oxford

New College, Oxford

New College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.- Overview :The College's official name, College of St Mary, is the same as that of the older Oriel College; hence, it has been referred to as the "New College of St Mary", and is now almost always...

. On graduating in 1899, he joined the Dublin brewery of Arthur Guinness

Arthur Guinness

Arthur Guinness was an Irish brewer and the founder of the Guinness brewery business and family.He was also an entrepreneur, visionary and philanthropist....

& Son.

Guinness

Guinness

Guinness is a popular Irish dry stout that originated in the brewery of Arthur Guinness at St. James's Gate, Dublin. Guinness is directly descended from the porter style that originated in London in the early 18th century and is one of the most successful beer brands worldwide, brewed in almost...

was a progressive agro-chemical business and Gosset would apply his statistical knowledge both in the brewery and on the farm—to the selection of the best yielding varieties of barley

Barley

Barley is a major cereal grain, a member of the grass family. It serves as a major animal fodder, as a base malt for beer and certain distilled beverages, and as a component of various health foods...

. Gosset acquired that knowledge by study, trial and error and by spending two terms in 1906–7 in the biometric laboratory of Karl Pearson

Karl Pearson

Karl Pearson FRS was an influential English mathematician who has been credited for establishing the disciplineof mathematical statistics....

. Gosset and Pearson had a good relationship and Pearson helped Gosset with the mathematics of his papers. Pearson helped with the 1908 papers but he had little appreciation of their importance. The papers addressed the brewer's concern with small samples, while the biometrician typically had hundreds of observations and saw no urgency in developing small-sample methods.

Another researcher at Guinness had previously published a paper containing trade secrets of the Guinness brewery. To prevent further disclosure of confidential information, Guinness prohibited its employees from publishing any papers regardless of the contained information. However, after pleading with the brewery and explaining that his mathematical and philosophical conclusions were of no possible practical use to competing brewers, he was allowed to publish them, but under a pseudonym ("Student"), to avoid difficulties with the rest of the staff. Thus his most famous achievement is now referred to as Student's t-distribution, which might otherwise have been Gosset's t-distribution.

Gosset had almost all of his papers including

*The probable error of a mean*published in Pearson's journal

*Biometrika*

using the pseudonym

Biometrika

- External links :* . The Internet Archive. 2011....

*Student*. However, it was R. A. Fisher

Ronald Fisher

Sir Ronald Aylmer Fisher FRS was an English statistician, evolutionary biologist, eugenicist and geneticist. Among other things, Fisher is well known for his contributions to statistics by creating Fisher's exact test and Fisher's equation...

who appreciated the importance of Gosset's small-sample work, after Gosset had written to him to say

*I am sending you a copy of Student's Tables as you are the only man that's ever likely to use them!*. Fisher believed that Gosset had effected a “logical revolution”. Ironically the

*t*-statistic for which Gosset is famous was actually Fisher's creation. Gosset's statistic was . Fisher introduced the

*t*-form because it fit in with his theory of degrees of freedom

Degrees of freedom (statistics)

In statistics, the number of degrees of freedom is the number of values in the final calculation of a statistic that are free to vary.Estimates of statistical parameters can be based upon different amounts of information or data. The number of independent pieces of information that go into the...

. Fisher was also responsible for the applications of the

*t*-distribution to regression.

Although introduced by others, Studentized residual

Studentized residual

In statistics, a studentized residual is the quotient resulting from the division of a residual by an estimate of its standard deviation. Typically the standard deviations of residuals in a sample vary greatly from one data point to another even when the errors all have the same standard...

s are named in Student's honor because, like the problem that led to Student's t-distribution, the idea of adjusting for estimated standard deviations is central to that concept.

Gosset's interest in barley

Barley

Barley is a major cereal grain, a member of the grass family. It serves as a major animal fodder, as a base malt for beer and certain distilled beverages, and as a component of various health foods...

cultivation led him to speculate that design of experiments

Design of experiments

In general usage, design of experiments or experimental design is the design of any information-gathering exercises where variation is present, whether under the full control of the experimenter or not. However, in statistics, these terms are usually used for controlled experiments...

should aim, not only at improving the average yield, but also at breeding varieties whose yield was insensitive (robust) to variation in soil and climate. This principle only occurs in the later thought of Fisher

Ronald Fisher

Sir Ronald Aylmer Fisher FRS was an English statistician, evolutionary biologist, eugenicist and geneticist. Among other things, Fisher is well known for his contributions to statistics by creating Fisher's exact test and Fisher's equation...

and then in the work of Genichi Taguchi

Genichi Taguchi

is an engineer and statistician. From the 1950s onwards, Taguchi developed a methodology for applying statistics to improve the quality of manufactured goods...

in the 1950s.

In 1935, he left Dublin to take up the position of Head Brewer, in charge of the scientific side of production, at a new Guinness

Guinness

Guinness is a popular Irish dry stout that originated in the brewery of Arthur Guinness at St. James's Gate, Dublin. Guinness is directly descended from the porter style that originated in London in the early 18th century and is one of the most successful beer brands worldwide, brewed in almost...

brewery at Park Royal

Park Royal

Park Royal is an area in northwest London, UK. It is the largest industrial and business park in London, occupying about , and is promoted commercially by the Park Royal Partnership...

in North West London. He died in Beaconsfield

Beaconsfield

Beaconsfield is a market town and civil parish operating as a town council within the South Bucks district in Buckinghamshire, England. It lies northwest of Charing Cross in Central London, and south-east of the county town of Aylesbury...

, England

England

England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

of a heart attack.

Gosset was a friend of both Pearson

Karl Pearson

Karl Pearson FRS was an influential English mathematician who has been credited for establishing the disciplineof mathematical statistics....

and Fisher

Ronald Fisher

Sir Ronald Aylmer Fisher FRS was an English statistician, evolutionary biologist, eugenicist and geneticist. Among other things, Fisher is well known for his contributions to statistics by creating Fisher's exact test and Fisher's equation...

, an achievement, for each had a massive ego and a loathing for the other. Gosset was a modest man who cut short an admirer with the comment that “Fisher would have discovered it all anyway.”

## Biographies

- E. S. Pearson (1990)
*‘Student’, A Statistical Biography of William Sealy Gosset,*Edited and Augmented by R. L. Plackett with the Assistance of G. A. Barnard, Oxford: University Press. - E. S. Pearson, "'Student' as Statistician,
*Biometrika*Vol. 30, No. 3/4 (Jan., 1939), pp. 210-250.

## External links

- Biography by Heinz Kohler
- Tales of Statisticians by E. Bruce Brooks
- Student's T Distribution
- Earliest known uses of some of the words of mathematics: S under the heading of "Student's
*t*-distribution", describes briefly how Student's*z*became*t*.