Statistical Science

Introduction to R.A. Fisher on inverse probability and likelihood

Stephen E. Fienberg

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When R. A. Fisher studied statistics as a student at Cambridge, the typical way to think about statistical inference was in terms of the method of inverse probability and Bayes's theorem. While others groped for alternatives with systematic structure and desirable alternatives, it remained for Fisher to invent the notion of likelihood and to explore its properties. These two papers trace the emergence of Fisher's thinking on likelihood over a 10-year period.

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Statist. Sci., Volume 12, Number 3 (1997), 161.

First available in Project Euclid: 22 August 2002

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Fienberg, Stephen E. Introduction to R.A. Fisher on inverse probability and likelihood. Statist. Sci. 12 (1997), no. 3, 161. doi:10.1214/ss/1030037905.

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  • [1] Aldrich, J. (1997). R. A. Fisher and the making of maximum likelihood. Statist. Sci. 12 162-176.
  • [2] Edwards, A. W. F. (1997). What did Fisher mean by "inverse probability" in 1912-1922? Statist. Sci. 12 177-184.
  • [3] Pfanzagl, J. and Shey nin, O. (1996). Studies in the history of probability and statistics XLIV: a forerunner of the tdistribution. Biometrika 83 891-898.
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  • [5] Student (1908b). Probable error of a correlation coefficient. Biometrika 6 302-310.