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Definition, Role and Brief History of Statistics

In this post, you will find information about statistics definition and meaning, the brief history of statistics as a scientific discipline, and its role in exploring socio-economic phenomena. 

What Is Statistics

In practical activities and the scientific sphere, the term “statistics” may have different meanings, such as:

a) statistics is the scope of practical activities related to the collection and generalization of data on various phenomena and processes;

b) statistics as a numerical data set on a particular area of ​​human activity (production statistics, population statistics, transportation statistics, loading and unloading data, warehouse operations statistics, etc.);

c) statistics is a scientific discipline, which considers and substantiates the tools and methods of statistical research.

Read also “What Is Statistical Observation: Types, Forms, Methods of Data Collection, an Observation Schedule”.

The word “statistics” comes from the Latin word “status“, which means state. It was used in the meaning of “political state”, hence in Italian are such words as “statio” – the state and “statista” – politician.

The term “statistics” entered the scientific circulation already in the 18th century and was first used in the meaning of “state science”.

Brief History of Statistics

Statistics, like any other science, arose from the practical needs of people. The emergence and development of capitalism required extensive and reliable information about the status of production, sources of raw materials, labor markets and product sales, etc. Experience is being accumulated in the collection, systematization, and processing of primary statistical materials. There is a need for it analysis to identify patterns of social development.

As a science, statistics have been witnessing intense growth in the mid-17 century in the form of so-called “political arithmetic”. Its founders were the English scientists John Graunt (1620 – 1674) and William Petty (1623 – 1687).

Another direction in the development of statistical science was headed by the German scientist Hermann Conring (1606 – 1681), who devised a descriptive system of the political system.

In 1746 at the University of Marburg the Conring’s follower, Professor of Philosophy and Law, Gottfried Achenwall (1719 – 1772) for the first time initiated the teaching of a new discipline and called it statistics. The core content of the discipline was the description of the political state of a country. 

Later, a professor at the University of Göttingen, August Ludwig (von) Schlözer (1736-1809) changed his mind that statistics should only descriptively characterize the political system of the state. According to A. Schlozer, the subject of statistics is the whole society.

A Belgian statistician Adolphe Quetelet (1796 – 1874) made a significant contribution to the process of developing the sustainability theory of statistical indicators. He first attempted to give statistics a new role – exploring social phenomena and their patterns. 

From a mathematical point of view, statistics has been developed in the works of such famous scientists as Frānsiss Goltons (1822-1911), Karl Pearson (1857-1936), William Sealy Gosset (1876-1936), Ronald Fisher (1890-1962), Wesley Clair Mitchell (1874-1948) and others.

Thus, the history of statistics shows that statistical science was formed as a result of theoretical generalizations of the experience accumulated by mankind in accounting and statistical work, due to the needs of production management and the life of society.

Role of Statistics or Why We Need Statistics

In modern society, the role of statistics is growing inexorably. Its relevance is because today statistical data are fundamental for decision-making in various areas of life, for example, in policy development at the international level and monitoring the consequences of decisions made.

The people’s activities (individual’s, group’s, union’s or community’s activity), in particular, the work of entrepreneurs, businessmen, managers, economists in the conditions of market relations is filled with new content today. This, in turn, has an impact on the ever-increasing role of statistical science:

  • mastering statistical methodology is a prerequisite for studying trends in supply and demand,
  • for understanding business consequences,
  • for making optimal management decisions, 
  • help to collect the data,
  • better understanding and accurate description of social and economic phenomena, 
  • need to make decisions in financial planning and budgeting, 
  • to analyze the past performance of the company or the state,
  • statistics are necessary to obtain complete, reliable, objective information.

The knowledge of statistics and mastering the methods of statistical measurement and analysis of complex socio-economic phenomena and processes is an integral element in the training of highly qualified entrepreneurs, managers, and economists.

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