Statistics - History

History

The use of statistical methods dates back at least to the 5th century BC. The earliest writing on statistics was found in a 9th century book entitled: "Manuscript on Deciphering Cryptographic Messages", written by Al-Kindi. In his book, he gave a detailed description of how to use statistics and frequency analysis to decipher encrypted messages, this was the birth of both statistics and cryptanalysis, according to the Saudi engineer Ibrahim Al-Kadi.

The Nuova Cronica, a 14th century history of Florence by the Florentine banker and official Giovanni Villani, includes much statistical information on population, ordinances, commerce and trade, education, and religious facilities and has been described as the first introduction of statistics as a positive element in history.

Some scholars pinpoint the origin of statistics to 1663, with the publication of Natural and Political Observations upon the Bills of Mortality by John Graunt. Early applications of statistical thinking revolved around the needs of states to base policy on demographic and economic data, hence its stat- etymology. The scope of the discipline of statistics broadened in the early 19th century to include the collection and analysis of data in general. Today, statistics is widely employed in government, business, and natural and social sciences.

Its mathematical foundations were laid in the 17th century with the development of the probability theory by Blaise Pascal and Pierre de Fermat. Probability theory arose from the study of games of chance. The method of least squares was first described by Carl Friedrich Gauss around 1794. The use of modern computers has expedited large-scale statistical computation, and has also made possible new methods that are impractical to perform manually.

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