18 JULY 1931, Page 18



SIR,—Your contributor has been unfortunate in his experience of statisticians. I share his contempt for the statistician who can say " exactly 1,335,617,903 lbs. of chocolates and candies were consumed in the U.S.A. in 1930." What about home- made sweets, which presumably do not figure in the records, " not to mention the possible inaccuracies of the records them- • selves ? Contrary to general belief, the statistician ought to pride himself on the inexactness, and not the exactness, of his figures, and the mysterious symbol ±, followed by a number, which so often appears in a statistical table, implies that a numerical estimate is made of the probable degree to which the statistician believes his results to diverge from the truth.

But to say, however ironically, that statisticians are " a mean-souled, sublunary race of men, incapable of the higher things, is to malign a noble body of workers who are, it is true, the victims of many a jest, but whose aid is nevertheless invoked whenever it is believed that something can be got out of them. To assert, on the other hand, that a round number might be reached by the statisticians imperilling their own digestions is to betray a lamentable ignorance of the function of a statistician as a compiler of data which he is not able himself to control in anyway, beyond the fact that he is a citizen, and presumably does his -share in taking home sweets to the family on Saturday nights. The adders, in fact, remained deaf to the challenge, not of their art, but of those who would seduce them, and their nobility of character in this should compel respect. Truly in this matter a centime of thought is worth more than a penny of observation !- I am, Sir, &c., A STATISTICIAN. [" Moth" writes :—"I now see that I was doing the public an even greater service than I thought in warning them against

statisticians. Apart from all this cabalistic mumbo-jumbo about ±, the world would do well to beware of those " whose aid is invoked whenever it is believed that something can be got out of them." Faust got into trouble with someone exactly answering to that description."—En. Spectator.]