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A Panorama of Statistics by Peter Petocz, Eric Sowey

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23 Statistical eponymy

We are all familiar with things being named after people. It is very common in geography, with Constantinople (a city), Tasmania (a region), Everest (a mountain) and Victoria (a lake) as examples. It’s also very frequent in science, technology, medicine and mathematics, where plants (fuchsia), chemical elements (einsteinium), temperature scales (Celsius), physical laws (Newton’s), industrial processes (pasteurisation), diseases (Alzheimer’s), mathematical theorems (Pythagoras’s), and codes (braille) are often named after people. Such naming of things after people is termed ‘eponymy’, and the person whose name is used is the ‘eponym’. A pleasant excursion through many contexts of eponymy can be found in a 1983 essay by the US information scientist, Eugene Garfield, titled ‘What’s in a name: the eponymic route to immortality’ (online at [23.1]).

Sketch of a round hat, a Rubik’s cube on top of paper, a Bunsen burner, mirror, and an Eiffel tower miniature.

In this chapter, we shall look at eponymy in statistics. Statisticians’ names are attached to concepts, constructs and procedures in every facet of statistical theory. In descriptive statistics we find, for example, the Winsorised mean, Spearman’s correlation coefficient and Kendall’s concordance coefficient. Many probability distributions carry the name of a statistician or mathematician. Most prominent is the Gaussian distribution (also called the normal distribution), and there are also, among others, ...

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