# Ronald Fisher: biography of this English statistician.

**Let's take a look at the life and work of one of the most controversial statisticians.**

Sir Ronald Fisher was a statistician and biologist well known for having been the author of several equations that are still used today in the world of natural science research.

Although his life is extensively prolific, being the author of several articles and a great researcher, he is also known for being in favor of eugenics and rejecting the idea that all people, whatever their race, are equal.

We are going to see below **a biography of Ronald Fisher**which is marked by chiaroscuro and some controversies.

## Biography of Ronald Fisher

We will now take a look at the life of Ronald Fisher, which is characterized by a long scientific career and statistical findings, as well as some controversy.

### Early years

Ronald Fisher was born in London, England, on February 17, 1890, into a middle-class family. **Throughout his life his vision was quite impaired, although not to the point of blindness.**Although he did not become blind, it still prevented him from being able to join the British army during the First World War.

At the age of fourteen **he enrolled at Harrow School, where he won a medal for his excellent mathematical abilities.**. That is why in 1909 he won acceptance to Cambridge schools to expand his mathematical knowledge.

He subsequently earned a degree in this science and was able to start working as a statistician.

### Career and education

During the period between 1913 and 1919, Ronald Fisher worked in the City of London. There, in addition to working as a statistician, he taught physics and mathematics in public schools, **in addition to working as a statistician, he taught physics and mathematics at public schools, including Thames Nautical Training College and Bradfield College.**including Thames Nautical Training College and Bradfield College.

In 1918 he published one of his most popular and prestigious works: *The Correlation Between Relatives on the Supposition of Mendelian Inheritance.*.

In this work **he introduced the concept of variance and proposed its analysis by means of statistics.**In this work he introduced the concept of variance and proposed its analysis by means of statistics, and in it some of the first ideas on population genetics were put forward. In the text he showed that natural selection can change the allele frequencies of a given gene in the population.

### Years at Rothamsted

In 1919 he began working at the Rothamsted Experimental Station, where he remained for a period of 14 years. There he analyzed a large amount of data on studies that had been carried out since 1840.

That same year he was offered a position in Francis Galton's laboratory at the University of London, which at that time was headed by Karl Pearson. However, Fisher opted for temporary work at Rothamsted. It was during these years that **he carried out the first application of analysis of variance (ANOVA).**.

In his 1924 paper called *On a distribution yielding the error functions of several well known statistics* he presented together several statistical tests, among which Pearson's chi-square and William Gosset's Student's t-test stand out.

It is in this paper that he introduces **a new statistical method, which, decades later, would be known as Fisher's F**.

In 1931 he stayed for six weeks at the Statistical Laboratory in Iowa, where he gave several lectures and had the opportunity to meet several statisticians, among them George W. Snedecor.

### Years in London

In 1933, Fisher **took over the leadership of the eugenics department of University College London.**.

In 1935 he published *The Design of Experiments*in which he argued that it was important to use statistical techniques to justify research methods.

In 1937 he published a paper, *The wave of advance of advantageous genes*in which he **proposed an equation to explain the expansion of advantageous alleles of a given gene in the population.** of a given gene in the population. In that paper he introduced one of the most famous equations in statistics, the Fisher-Kolmogorov equation.

That same year he visited the Indian Statistical Institute in Calcutta, where he had the opportunity to meet great minds of the discipline in the Indian subcontinent.

In 1938, together with Frank Yates, **he described the Fisher-Yates algorithm**a mathematical calculus whose original purpose was to serve research in biology, medicine and agriculture.

### Personal life

Ronald Fisher married Eileen Guinnes, with whom he had two sons and six daughters. The marriage broke up when World War II came, a conflict in which one of their sons was killed in combat.

Fisher **was an adherent of the Church of England and of extremely conservative tendency, although he was also a great scientist and advocate of the Church of England.**He was also a great scientist and defender of rationalism in research. In the academic world he was known to be the typical professor who goes through the roof, who cares more about explaining about the content of the lesson by rambling on rather than anchoring himself to a strict class script. He was also known for giving little importance to his style of dress, dressing rather shabbily.

One of the things that is most striking about Fisher is that **he was a member of the Society for Psychical Research**an organization in charge of investigating paranormal events, but from a more or less scientific perspective and trying to leave aside pseudo-scientific and mythological interpretations of them.

### Last years

In 1957, Fisher retired and decided to emigrate to Australia, where he was granted a place as emeritus researcher at the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Adelaide. He died in that same city on July 29, 1962.

## Controversies

Although Fisher was a great scientist, **he had a vision of how humanity should be organized based on eugenic and racist pretexts.**.

In 1910 he joined the British Eugenics Society at Cambridge University. Fisher considered eugenics to be a good method of dealing with social pressures.

In his book *The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection* he explained that one of the reasons why great civilizations fell was because their most powerful classes, at some point in history, had been less fertile, **making the lower classes, seen as inferior, have greater weight in society, demographically speaking, which implied that the lower** demographically speaking, which ultimately implied a greater socio-political weight for them.

In 1950 Fisher opposed the debate on the race question proposed by UNESCO, believing that there was strong evidence to support the idea that races were significantly different and that, therefore, there should be differences in the treatment of individuals of different races.

### Controversy with tobacco research

Fisher was openly critical of research carried out in 1950 in which tobacco Smoking was linked to cancer. The research in particular claimed that tobacco was behind the development of the disease.

However, Fisher did not consider this statement to be correct, given that **correlation does not imply causation**that is, the fact that two events occur more or less evenly does not necessarily imply that one causes the other. Some say that Fisher voiced this criticism because he was a heavy smoker and that, in addition, the tobacco industry was suspected of having bribed him to support it.

However, this is not true, since what he was doing was simply pointing out that claiming that one factor, in this case tobacco smoking, was ultimately responsible for the other, in this case cancer, was not strictly true.

While no one today doubts **no one today doubts the harmfulness of tobacco use, there is an important lesson to be learned.**an important lesson can be drawn from this anecdote: we should not believe that because two or more things happen at the same time, one is responsible for the other, something that many research and media outlets err in asserting without adequate evidence.

Bibliographical references:

- Fisher-Box, J. (1978) Ronald Fisher: The Life of a Scientist, New York: Wiley, ISBN 0-471-09300-9.
- Salsburg, D. (2002) The Lady Tasting Tea: How Statistics Revolutionized Science in the Twentieth Century, ISBN 0-8050-7134-2.

(Updated at Apr 13 / 2024)