Harpenden, Hertfordshire

The Rothamsted Experimental Station is at Harpenden. John Bennett Lawes (1814-1900) inherited the Lordship of the Manor, and set up a chemical laboratory, hiring J. H. Gilbert (a student of Liebig) in 1834 to supervise laboratory work and long-term (indeed still continuing) experiments began. After years of trials, Lawes patented the process and started the world's first fertilizer factory at Deptford in 1843. The Rothamsted Experimental Station is now largely supported by the government.

R. A. Fisher and Frank Yates developed much of modern statistics for Rothamsted. Fisher joined for six months in 1919 to analyse the 75 years of data, and continued working for the Station even after going to University College London in 1933. During this time he formally developed analysis of variance, he introduced the word variance and found the distribution of the correlation coefficient, the correct chi-squared distribution for contingency tables (Pearson failed to get the right number of degrees of freedom) and the distributions of the simple and multiple correlation coefficients. He also introduced and developed the basic ideas of estimation theory (efficiency, sufficiency, consistency, etc.), the maximum likelihood method and the basic ideas of factorial experiments and block designs. Yates developed incomplete block designs. Wishart worked here with Fisher, leaving in 1931 for Cambridge.


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