William Sealy Gosset, alias “Student,” was an immensely talented scientist of diverse interests, but he will be remembered primarily
for his contributions to the development of modern statistics.
Born in Canterbury in 1876, he was educated at Winchester and New College, Oxford, where he studied chemistry and mathematics.
At the turn of the 19th century, Arthur Guinness, Son & Co. became interested in hiring scientists to analyze data concerned with various aspects of its brewing process.
Gosset was to be one of the first of these scientists, and so it was that in 1899 he moved to Dublin to take up a job as a brewer at St. James’Gate.
In 1935 he left Dublin to become head brewer at the new Guinness Park Royal brewery in London, but he died soon thereafter at the young age of 61 in 1937.
After initially finding his feet at the brewery in Dublin, Gosset wrote a report for Guinness in 1904 called “The Application of the Law of Error to Work of the Brewery.”
The report emphasized the importance of probability theory in setting an exact value on the results of brewery experiments, many of which were probable but not certain.
Most of the report was the classic theory of errors (Airy and Merriman) being applied to brewery analysis, but it also showed signs of a curious mind at work exploring new statistical horizons.
The report concluded that a mathematician should be consulted about special problems with small samples in the brewery.
Taken from: Philip J. Boland (1984): “A Biographical Glimpse of William Sealy Gosset”, The American Statistician, 38:3, 179-183.
Previously published in the June 2013 Volume 4, Issue 2 ASQ Reliability Division Newsletter
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