Pearson, Karl (1857-1936)

Karl Pearson
Karl Pearson

Karl Pearson was born on March 27, 1857 in London, the son of a lawyer. He attended King's College, Cambridge University, graduating in 1879 and ranking third in his class in mathematics. Pearson had many interests besides mathematics. After graduating from Cambridge he studied subjects ranging from physics to literature at the University of Heidelberg and the University of Berlin, before returning to England to study Law

Pearson's mathematical career began in earnest in 1885 when he was appointed to a faculty position in applied mathematics at University College, London. He was greatly influenced by Francis Galton's book Natural Inheritance, and this led to his interest in statistics. Pearson made important contributions to regression analysis, correlation, and the chi-square test of significance. He confounded the statistics journal Biometrica. His book The Grammar of Science, published in 1892, greatly influenced many scientists of the day, including Jerzy Neyman, who went on the make fundamental contributions in statistics with Karl Pearson's son Egon Pearson.

Pearson is also remembered for his long, bitter dispute with Ronald Fisher. The dispute was partly based on different philosophical approaches to the new science of statistics, but unfortunately became personal and vindictive on both sides.

Nonetheless, Karl Pearson is rightly remembered as one of the founding fathers of statistics. He died on April 27, 1936 in Surrey, England.

Primary Sources