Taxes and insurance caused people to become interested in problems of census, longevity, and mortality. Such considerations assumed increasing importance, especially in England, as the country prospered during the development of its empire. John Graunt (1620 -1674) and William Petty (1623-1687) were early students of vital statistics and others followed in their footsteps.
Second root of modern statistics existed in the mathematical theory of probability which roused by the interest in games of chance among the leisure classes of the time. Important contributions to this theory were made by Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) and Pierre de Fermat (1601 1665), both Frenchmen.
Jacques Bernoulli (1654-1705), a Swiss, laid the foundation of modern probability theory in Ars conjectandi, published posthumously. Abraham de Moivre (1667- 1754), a Frenchman, was the first to combine the statistics of his day with probability theory in working out annuity values. De Moivre also was the first to approximate the important normal distribution through the expansion of the binomial.
A later stimulus for the development of statistics came from the science of astronomy, in which many individual observations had to be digested into a coherent theory. Many of the famous astronomers and mathematicians of the 18th century such as Pierre Simon Laplace (1749-1827) in France and Karl Friedrich Gauss (1777-1855) in Germany were among the leaders in this field.
Perhaps the earliest important figure in biostatistic thought was Adolphe Quetelet (1796-1874), a Belgian astronomer and mathematician, who in his work combined the theory end practical methods of statistics and applied them to problems of biology medicine, and sociology.
Francis Gallon (1822-1911), a cousin of Charles Darwin, has been called the father of biostatistics and eugenics. Galton’s major contribution to biology is his application of statistical methodology to the analysis of biological variation, such as the analysis of variability and his study of regression and correlation in biological measurements.
Karl Pearson (1857-1936), at University College, London, became interested in application of statistical methods to biology, particularly in the demonstration of natural selection, through the influence of W.F.R. Weldon (1860-1906), a zoologist at the same institution. Weldon, incidentally, is credited with coining the term biometry for the type of studies pursued by him.
Pearson continued in the tradition of Galton and laid the foundation for much of descriptive and correlations statistics. Student (1908) contributed the distribution. The dominant figure in statistics and biometry in this century has been Ronald A. Fisher (1890-1962). Statistics today is a broad and extremely active field, whose applications touch almost every science and even the humanities.