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Ronald Fisher (1890 – 1962)


Evolutionary biologist, geneticist and statistician.
Ronald Fisher
I believe that no one who is familiar, either with mathematical advances in other fields, or with the range of special biological conditions to be considered, would ever conceive that everything could be summed up in a single mathematical formula, however complex.
Fisher quotes
... the best causes tend to attract to their support the worst arguments, which seems to be equally true in the intellectual and in the moral sense.
Fisher
[We are now] in a position to judge of the validity of the objection which has been made, that the principle of Natural Selection depends on a succession of favourable chances. The objection is more in the nature of an innuendo than of a criticism, for it depends for its force upon the ambiguity of the word chance, in its popular uses. The income derived from a Casino by its proprietor may, in one sense, be said to depend upon a succession of favourable chances, although the phrase contains a suggestion of improbability more appropriate to the hopes of the patrons of his establishment. It is easy without any very profound logical analysis to perceive the difference between a succession of favourable deviations from the laws of chance, and on the other hand, the continuous and cumulative action of these laws. It is on the latter that the principle of Natural Selection relies.




Fisher Ronald quotes
After all, it is a common weakness of young authors to put too much into their papers.
Fisher Ronald
The million, million, million ... to one chance happens once in a million, million, million ... times no matter how surprised we may be that it results in us.
Ronald Fisher quotes
There is, then, in this analysis of variance no indication of any other than innate and heritable factors at work. (Coining of the phrase ‘analysis of variance’.)
Ronald Fisher
Professor Eddington has recently remarked that 'The law that entropy always increases — the second law of thermodynamics — holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of nature'. It is not a little instructive that so similar a law [the fundamental theorem of natural selection] should hold the supreme position among the biological sciences.
Fisher Ronald quotes
No practical biologist interested in sexual reproduction would be led to work out the detailed consequences experienced by organisms having three or more sexes; yet what else should he do if he wishes to understand why the sexes are, in fact, always two?
Fisher
He has made contributions to many areas of science; among them are agronomy, anthropology, astronomy, bacteriology, botany, economics, forestry, meteorology, psychology, public health, and-above all-genetics, in which he is recognized as one of the leaders. Out of this varied scientific research and his skill in mathematics, he has evolved systematic principles for the interpretation of empirical data; and he has founded a science of experimental design. On the foundations he has laid down, there has been erected a structure of statistical techniques that are used whenever men attempt to learn about nature from experiment and observation.
Fisher Ronald
However, perhaps the main point is that you are under no obligation to analyse variance into its parts if it does not come apart easily, and its unwillingness to do so naturally indicates that one’s line of approach is not very fruitful.
Ronald Fisher
(Coining the phrase ‘test of significance’): Critical tests of this kind may be called tests of significance, and when such tests are available we may discover whether a second sample is or is not significantly different from the first.




Ronald Fisher quotes
No efforts of mine could avail to make the book easy reading.
Ronald Fisher
To consult the statistician after an experiment is finished is often merely to ask him to conduct a post mortem examination. He can perhaps say what the experiment died of.
Fisher quotes
The academic mind, as we know, is sometimes capable of assuming an aggressive attitude. The official mind, on the contrary, is and has to be, expert in the art of self-defence.
Fisher Ronald
In organisms of all kinds the young are launched upon their careers endowed with a certain amount of biological capital derived from their parents. This varies enormously in amount in different species, but, in all, there has been, before the offspring is able to lead an independent existence, a certain expenditure of nutriment in addition, almost universally, to some expenditure of time or activity, which the parents are induced by their instincts to make for the advantage of their young. Let us consider the reproductive value of these offspring at the moment when this parental expenditure on their behalf has just ceased. If we consider the aggregate of an entire generation of such offspring it is clear that the total reproductive value of the males in this group is exactly equal to the total value of all the females, because each sex must supply half the ancestry of all future generations of the species. From this it follows that the sex ratio will so adjust itself, under the influence of Natural Selection, that the total parental expenditure incurred in respect of children of each sex, shall be equal; for if this were not so and the total expenditure incurred in producing males, for instance, were less than the total expenditure incurred in producing females, then since the total reproductive value of the males is equal to that of the females, it would follow that those parents, the innate tendencies of which caused them to produce males in excess, would, for the same expenditure, produce a greater amount of reproductive value; and in consequence would be the progenitors of a larger fraction of future generations than would parents having a congenital bias towards the production of females. Selection would thus raise the sex-ratio until the expenditure upon males became equal to that upon females.
Fisher Ronald quotes
...it was Darwin’s chief contribution, not only to Biology but to the whole of natural science, to have brought to light a process by which contingencies a priori improbable, are given, in the process of time, an increasing probability, until it is their non-occurrence rather than their occurrence which becomes highly improbable. ... Let the reader ... attempt to calculate the prior probability that a hundred generations of his ancestry in the direct male line should each have left at least one son. The odds against such a contingency as it would have appeared to his hundredth ancestor (about the time of King Solomon) would require for their expression forty- four figures of the decimal notation; yet this improbable event has certainly happened.
Ronald Fisher
... the so-called co-efficient of heritability, which I regard as one of those unfortunate short-cuts, which have often emerged in biometry for lack of a more thorough analysis of the data.
Ronald Fisher quotes
We may consequently state the fundamental theorem of Natural Selection in the form : The rate of increase in fitness of any organism at any time is equal to its genetic variance in fitness at that time.
Ronald Fisher
Natural selection is a mechanism for generating an exceedingly high degree of improbability.
Fisher Ronald
Fairly large print is a real antidote to stiff reading.


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