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The Lady Tasting Tea


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About the Author

David Salsburg is a retired pharmaceutical company statistician and currently works as a private consultant. He has been a member of the American Statistics Association since 1964 and has taught at Harvard, Connecticut College, the University of Connecticut, the University of Pennsylvania, Rhode Island College, and Trinity College. During his latter years of teaching, Salsburg became Senior Research Fellow at Pfizer, Inc., in the Central Research Department.


This is an insightful and revealing history of how the emergence of statistics in scientific research revolutionized the sciences. Without using a single mathematical equation, Salsburg, a former Harvard professor and a prolific writer with three books and numerous articles on applied statistics, clearly discusses some major advances in statistics in the last century. He covers most of the major contributors to the field and dedicates two chapters to the contributions made by women. Salsburg also does an excellent job of showing how statistics has had an impact in the development of other sciences likes agriculture, cancer research, and econometrics as well as its influence in industry, where statistical methods are widely used in quality control and for the analysis of operational research. General readers with little mathematical background will be able to grasp Salsburg's lucid concepts with ease. Specialists will also enjoy reading this book for its interesting presentation and for the many biographical notations about some of the most influential researchers in the field. Since Salsburg focuses on the 20th century, readers interested in learning about earlier developments in statistics can look at Stephen M. Stigler's Statistics on the Table (LJ 10/1/99). Nestor L. Osorio, Northern Illinois Univ. Lib., DeKalb Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

The development of statistical modeling in primary research is the underreported paradigm shift in the foundation of science. The lady of the title's claim that she could detect a difference between milk-into-tea vs. tea-into-milk infusions sets up the social history of a theory that has changed the culture of science as thoroughly as relativity did (the lady's palate is analogous to quantum physics' famous cat-subject), making possible the construction of meaningful scientific experiments. Statistical modeling is the child of applied mathematics and the 19th-century scientific revolution. So Salsburg begins his history at the beginning (with field agronomists in the U.K. in the 1920s trying to test the usefulness of early artificial fertilizer) and creates an important, near-complete chapter in the social history of science. His modest style sometimes labors to keep the lid on the Wonderland of statistical reality, especially under the "This Book Contains No Equations!" marketing rule for trade science books. He does his best to make a lively story of mostly British scientists' lives and work under this stricture, right through chaos theory. The products of their advancements include more reliable pharmaceuticals, better beer, econometrics, quality control manufacturing, diagnostic tests and social policy. It is unfortunate that this introduction to new statistical descriptions of reality tries so hard to appease mathophobia. Someone should do hypothesis testing of the relationship between equations in texts and sales in popular science markets it would make a fine example of the use of statistics. Illus. (Apr.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

"Highly readable and well-written. Give it to someone you want to delight." --Alcan R. Feinstein, M.D., Sterling Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology, Yale University School of Medicine "A fascinating description of the kinds of people who interacted, collaborated, disagreed, and were brilliant in the development of statistics." --Barbara A. Bailar, National Opinion Research Center

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