Biostatistics

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Biostatistics (or biometry) refers to the application of statistical methods to a variety of topics within biology. This field includes the design of biological experiments in medicine, pharmacy, agriculture, and fishery; the collection, summarization, and analysis of data from these experiments; and the interpretation and inference from the results. A significant branch of biostatistics is medical biostatistics, which focuses on medicine and health[1].

Biostatistics and the History of Biological Thought[edit | edit source]

The development of biostatistical reasoning and modeling played a crucial role in the foundational theories of modern biology. In the early 1900s, following the rediscovery of Mendel's work, the gaps in understanding between genetics and evolutionary Darwinism led to vigorous debates among biometricians, such as Walter Weldon and Karl Pearson, and Mendelians, such as Charles Davenport, William Bateson, and Wilhelm Johannsen. By the 1930s, statisticians and models grounded in statistical reasoning contributed to resolving these differences and producing the neo-Darwinian modern evolutionary synthesis.

Key figures in establishing this synthesis all relied on statistics and developed its use in biology:

Sir Ronald A. Fisher created several fundamental statistical methods to support his work, The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection. Sewall G. Wright utilized statistics in the development of modern population genetics. J.B.S. Haldane's book, The Causes of Evolution, reestablished natural selection as the primary mechanism of evolution by explaining it in terms of the mathematical consequences of Mendelian genetics. These individuals, along with other biostatisticians, mathematical biologists, and statistically inclined geneticists, helped integrate evolutionary biology and genetics into a consistent, coherent whole that could be quantitatively modeled.

In parallel, D'Arcy Thompson's pioneering work in On Growth and Form also contributed to adding quantitative discipline to biological study.

Despite the fundamental importance and frequent necessity of statistical reasoning, some biologists may have been inclined to distrust or deprecate results that are not qualitatively apparent. An anecdote tells of Thomas Hunt Morgan banning the Friden calculator from his department at Caltech, saying, "Well, I am like a guy who is prospecting for gold along the banks of the Sacramento River in 1849. With a little intelligence, I can reach down and pick up big nuggets of gold. And as long as I can do that, I'm not going to let any people in my department waste scarce resources in placer mining."[2]

Scope and Training Programs[edit | edit source]

Nearly all educational programs in biostatistics are at the postgraduate level. They are typically found in schools of public health, affiliated with schools of medicine, forestry, or agriculture, or as a focus of application in departments of statistics.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. [1]
  2. [2]

External links[edit | edit source]

Biostatistics Resources

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