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Trip to Rothamsted - The Development of Statistical Design Concepts at Rothamsted

Payne, R
Thursday 01 September 2011, 16:20-16:50



Modern applied statistics began in 1919, when R.A. Fisher was appointed as the first statistician at Rothamsted. Experiments were already taking place of course, notably the Broadbalk long-term fertiliser trial of wheat at Rothamsted which had been running since 1843. However, concepts like replication, randomization, blocking and factorial structure were unknown and it took some strong persuasion by Fisher before they became accepted.

Only very limited analysis options were available too, and again some of the concepts like degrees of freedom, or methodology like maximum likelihood, proved to be very controversial. Nevertheless, by the time that Fisher left Rothamsted in 1935, the foundations had been laid for very many of the design principles and statistical methods that we now take for granted.

In this talk I shall describe how some of the key ideas developed under the challenges from the biological research at Rothamsted, sketch out a few of the events and controversies, and indicate how some of the research threads have been continued by his successors.


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