1837 · Paris:
"Poisson's major work on probability was a book, Recherches sur la probabilité…, published in 1837. The book was in large part a treatise on probability theory after the manner of Laplace, with an emphasis on the behavior of means of large numbers of measurements. The latter portion (p. 318-415) dealt with the subject matter of the title. Some of this material was taken from memoirs Poisson published in the two preceding years. Only a charitable modern reading could identify a new concept in the work; yet the book contains the germ of the two things now most commonly associated with the Poisson's name. The first of these is the probability distribution now commonly called the Poisson distribution… In a section of the book concerned with the form of the binomial distribution for large numbers of trials, Poisson does in fact derive this distribution in its cumulative form, as a limit to the binomial distribution when the chance of a success is very small. The distribution appears on only one page in all of Poisson's work (see p. 206). Although it is given no special emphasis tis brief notice did catch the eye of Cournot, who republished it in 1843 with calculations demonstrating the effectiveness of the approximation (Cournot, 1843 …). The second most common appearance of Poisson's name in modern literature is in connection with a generalization of the Bernoulli law of large numbers." – Stigler.
"[This work is] significant for the author's participation in an important contemporary debate. The legitimacy of the application of the calculus to areas relating to the moral order, that is to say within the broad area of what is now called the humanistic sciences, was bitterly disputed beginning in 1820 in politically conservative circles. . . Poission was bold enough to take pen in hand to defend the universality of the probabilistic thesis and to demonstrate the conformability to the order of nature of the regularities that the calculus of probability, without recourse to hidden causes, reveals when things are subjected to a great number of observations." –DSB (pp. 489). LAID WITHIN THIS VOLUME ARE FIVE PAGES (ON FOUR LEAVES) OF MATHEMATICAL NOTATIONS IN FRENCH, SUGGESTING AN OWNERSHIP (UNKNOWN) PRIOR TO PEARSON. Karl Pearson (1857-1936) "was a major player in the early development of statistics as a serious scientific discipline in its own right. He founded the Department of Applied Statistics (now the Department of Statistical Science) at University College London in 1911; it was the first university statistics department in the world. The present departments of Statistical Science and Computer Science, as well as the Genetics and Biometry group in Biology and the physical side of Anthropology are all part of his legacy to UCL." A major proponent of eugenics, Pearson was also a protégé and biographer of Sir Francis Galton.
REFERENCES: F. Fraunberger, within DSB, XV, Supple., I, pp. 480-491; Dodge, Yadolah, The Concise Encyclopedia of Statistics, (2008), p. 427; Stigler, The History of Statistics, pp. 182-3. See: Pearson, E.S., Karl Pearson: an appreciation of some aspects of his life and work. Cambridge University Press, (1938). [PLEASE CONTACT DIRECT FOR FURTHER INFORMATION]. (Inventory #: S13080)