Sir Godfrey Thomson: a statistical pioneer

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Godfrey Thomson (1881–1955) was a leading figure in intelligence testing who made his name in that field first at Armstrong College, Newcastle, and then at the University of Edinburgh. In the course of his practical work he identified many theoretical problems which were essentially statistical in character. In particular, he used maximum likelihood estimation as early as 1919 and his statistical work largely set the course of modern factor analysis and related techniques. His statistical abilities were recognized, at different stages of his career, by both Karl Pearson and Sir Ronald Fisher. His key insight was to recognize the importance of Fisherian inference for the future of that subject.

Keywords: Factor analysis; History of statistics; K. Pearson; Latent variables; M. S. Bartlett; Maximum likelihood estimation; R. A. Fisher

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: London School of Economics and Political Science, UK 2: University of Edinburgh, UK

Publication date: April 1, 2009

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