Eugenics in the wild

As my fourth semester of grad school draws to a close, I am in the lab writing a final project for my Linear Models 2 class about a paper published by Patterson and Thompson called “Recovery of Inter-block Information when Block Sizes are Unequal.” Pretty dry stuff. But one of the citations in this article is for an article written by Nelder in 1968 (The combination of information in generally balanced designs). Then there are several citations in that article to articles written by another big name, Yates. He published three articles about incomplete blocking designs between 1936 and 1940. The journal on the citation is Ann. Eugen.. I was searching for this journal on the internet, and I couldn’t find any current issues. It seemed to have stopped publishing about 1950.

The reason? The name of the journal was Annals of Eugenics. I thought nothing of this at first, then I thought, “Wait. Is Eugenics what I think it is?”. It was. (If you don’t know click here.)

Crazy. So then I looked up the history of this journal. Apparently, it was started by Karl Pearson. Yeah, Karl Pearson. The guy who is famous for Pearson’s correlation coefficient and many, many other widely used statistical methods still in use today. This is the same guy who also founded the journal Biometrika, which is one of the most prestigious statistics journals today. As one of my professors would say, “He is a god in statistics.”

That led me to this great blog post (from a great blog, The Lay Scientist) about the journal, Annals of Eugenics. Please read this. This is crazy. Eugenics was a well respected area of science less than 100 years ago.

I am rapidly becoming more an more interested in the history of statistics than I am in actual statistics.


Posted on April 19, 2009, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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