Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet

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Quételet, Lambert Adolphe Jacques

 

Born Feb. 22, 1796, in Ghent; died Feb. 17, 1874, in Brussels. Belgian mathematician, astronomer, meteorologist, and sociologist; one of the creators of scientific statistics.

Quételet became a professor of mathematics and astronomy in Brussels in 1819. In 1820 he became a member of the Belgian Royal Academy of Sciences and in 1834, its secretary. Beginning in 1832 he was director of the astronomical and meteorological observatory founded by him in Brussels. From 1841 to 1874 he was chairman of the Central Belgian Statistical Commission, which had been established on his initiative. He was also the organizer of the first international statistical conference (Brussels, 1853) and chairman of the first international meteorological conference—the Conference on Marine Meteorology (1855). He carried out extensive studies of the climate of Belgium and of the entire globe. He was also the author of Elementary Astronomy, reprinted five times (1826–48).

From the standpoint of positivism, Quételet asserted that social and physical phenomena are subordinate to identical laws and must be studied by the precise methods of mathematical statistics. He set forth the concept of the “average man” (homme moyen), possessing average physical, intellectual, and moral characteristics. Separate individuals, in Quételet’s opinion, are only distorted expressions of the average type. Quételet attempted to discover the laws of its preservation. He proved that certain mass social phenomena (such as birth, death, crime) are subject to definite patterns. K. Marx appraised Quételet’s book On Man and the development of His Faculties, or An Experiment in Social Physics (vols. 1–2, 1835) as an “excellent scientific work” (see K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 8, p. 531), but he noted that Quételet was unable to explain the regularities he himself had established (ibid., vol. 32, pp. 495–96).

Quételet exercised considerable influence on the development of quantitiative methods in social studies.

WORKS

Astronomie élémentaire. Brussels. 1826.
Le Climat de Belgique, vols. 1–2. Brussels, 1849–57.
Météorologie de Belgique, comparée à celle du globe. Brussels, 1867.
In Russian translation:
Sotsial’naia sistema i zakony, eiu upravliaiuschie. St. Petersburg, 1866.

REFERENCES

Raikhesberg, N. M. A. Ketle: Ego zhizn’ i nauchnaia deiatel’nost' St. Petersburg. 1894.
Halbwachs, M. La Théorie de l’homme moyen. Essai sur Quételet et la statistique morale. Paris, 1912.

SH. A. GUMEROV and A. KH. KHRGIAN

References in periodicals archive ?
Adolphe Quetelet and the origins of positivist criminology.
Adolphe Quetelet (1796-1874) -the average man and indices of obesity.
The Belgian scientist Adolphe Quetelet had shown that the chest sizes of Scottish soldiers followed a statistical bell-shaped curve.
It was Comte's second choice; he had preferred to call his new social science "social physics," bar discovered that the Belgian social statistician Adolphe Quetelet had "stolen" that term from him.
Adolphe Quetelet, a Belgian statistician and founder and director of the Brussels Observatory, had mentioned mid-August meteors very tentatively six months earlier.
Like his contemporary, the Belgian Adolphe Quetelet, he was excited to demonstrate that statistics revealed that deviant behavior had a persistent structuring.
Over the last six or seven years, Piers Beirne has published a series of historical essays exploring the work of Adolphe Quetelet, Gabriel Tarde, Charles Goring, and Cesare Beccaria.
In the early 1800's, LaPlace and Adolphe Quetelet argued vigorously for estimating population in France and Belgium by means of sample surveys.
The assertion by the Belgian statistician Adolphe Quetelet that suicide rates followed a statistical "law," which could be "confirmed year after year," provided additional authenticity for assertions that increases in suicide were a function of the complexity of urban life.