Karl Pearson

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Pearson, Karl,

1857–1936, English scientist. He studied law, taught geometry, and applied mathematics and mechanics, and in 1911 became professor of eugenics at the Univ. of London and director of the eugenics laboratory. A disciple of Francis Galton, he applied statistical methods to the study of biological problems (especially evolution and heredity), a science he called biometrics. He founded and edited Biometrika and was author of many works including The Grammar of Science (1892), Chances of Death (2 vol., 1897), and a biography of Francis Galton (3 vol., 1914–30).

Pearson, Karl


Born Mar. 27, 1857, in London; died there Apr. 27, 1936. English mathematician, biologist, and positivist philosopher.

Pearson became professor of applied mathematics and mechanics in 1884 and of eugenics in 1911 at the University of London. He continued the investigations of F. Galton, and with Galton was one of the founders of biometry. Pearson was the founder and, from 1901 to 1936, the publisher of the journal Biometrika. His considerable contributions to the development of mathematical statistics included the introduction of the Pearson curves.

In his book The Grammar of Science (Russian translation, 1911) Pearson gave a subjective-idealist interpretation of the nature of scientific knowledge. For him, the concepts of science are artificial constructs; they are the means of describing and ordering sensory experience. The rules for combining them into scientific propositions are given by the grammar of science, which is, according to Pearson, the philosophy of science. A sharp criticism of Pearson’s philosophical views was given by V. I. Lenin in Materialism and Empiriocriticism.


Mathematical Contributions to the Theory of Evolution, vols. 1–18. London, 1894–1912.
Tables for Statisticians and Biometricians, vols. 1–2. London, 1924.
The Life, Letters and Labours of Francis Galton, vols. 1–4. Cambridge, 1914–30.