Statistics

Statistics

Though Statistics is described as a “young discipline” by the 49 Book, data collection and analysis are as old as human civilization itself. Livy, in Book I of his Ab urbe condita (which Houghton owns in multiple copies, including a 1470 incunabulum [Inc 3345, 005274015]), describes how king Servius Tullius instituted the census; indeed, the urge to collect, organize, and interpret information has been a constant in human history. Houghton can testify to this urge through its collection, which include many examples of statistical collection and analysis from multiple places and time periods. The 49 Book, in emphasizing the interdisciplinary nature of statistics, also cites areas in which the concentration’s skills might be applicable, and they include a large cohort of subjects that are Harvard concentrations in their own right—Anthropology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Economics, Government, History, Linguistics, Mathematics, Physics, Psychology, and Sociology are just some of the names cited. Statistics students are, therefore, invited to check this catalogue’s information on those concentrations as well, for they can also provide working material for undergraduates pursuing statistical research.

Following Ancient Rome’s example, the United States established its census early on in its history. Houghton has original copies of the first five US censuses (Econ 8217.90*-18.30), which cover the period 1790-1830 and provide fascinating insight on the demographic composition of the first forty years of the American republic. With this material, statistics students can trace demographic patterns and analyze their significance from a historical and sociological stance, but they can also assess, for instance, diagrammatic and presentation changes of the census information through the years and interpret their impact and significance. Students interested in history and demographics also have access to a 1808-1810 census of the Kingdom of Bavaria (MS Ger 249, 009771531). Those studying military and economic history can likewise profit from Houghton’s collections. An English-language pamphlet published in Rome in 1919 displays Data to Demonstrate the Strain Sustained by Italy in the War against the Central Empires (Ital 839.9.19*, 005069015), and a collection of broadsides dating mostly from the interwar period includes one titled The Economic Position of Europe in Comparison with the U.S. (Econ 13.5, 005421503). Those focused on African and African American Studies have access to A Statistical Inquiry into the Condition of the People of Color (US 5261.162*, 006658027), a 1849 Philadelphia volume that statistically analyzes multiple aspects related to the city’s black community.

Statisticians, however, do not only have access to material related to the humanities and social sciences. Houghton offers an important statistical work about health care, Mortality of the British Army (EC85.N5647.858m, 002917124), a 1858 effort undertaken because of the Crimean War by Florence Nightingale—one of the most celebrated women of the nineteenth century—, and the 1754-1865 meteorological records of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences for a variety of cities in Massachusetts (MS Am 1360-1361, 000601772), useful for Earth and Planetary Sciences and Environmental Science and Public Policy concentrators doing statistical work. Lastly, students can sometimes find academic work related to statistics, such as J. A. Paulos’ “Probabilistic, Truth-Value, and Standard Semantics and the Primacy of Predicate Logic” (MS Am 2587 [2067], 008937558), which is part of the Quine papers.