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Origin and Definition of Statistics

Origin and Growth of Statistics:

The word “Statistics” which comes from the Latin word status, meaning a political state, originally meant information useful to the state, for example, information about the sizes of populations and armed forces. But this word has now acquired different meanings.

Although, in the beginning, it was used by Kings only for collecting information about states and other information which was needed about their people, their number, revenue of the state etc.

This was known as the science of the state because it was used only by the Kings. So, it got its development as ‘Kings’ subject or ‘Science of Kings’ or we may call it as “Political Arithmetic’s”. It was for the first time, perhaps in Egypt to conduct census of population in 3050 B.C. because the king needed money to erect pyramids.

But now-a-days due to its pervading nature, its scope has increased and widened. It is now used in almost in all the fields of human knowledge and skills like Business, Commerce, Economics, Social Sciences, Politics, Planning, Medicine and other sciences, Physical as well as Natural.

Meaning of Statistics:

Individuals view Statistics in many different ways. Generally, it is considered to be a subject that deals with percentages, charts, graphs, averages and tables. Some people think that Statistics is a subject consisting of rules, methods and techniques of collecting and presenting large amount of numerical information, while other people think that it is a subject of making inferences about the population on the basis of sample information.

In the first place:

The word statistics refers to “numerical facts systematically arranged”. In this sense, the word statistics is always used in the plural. We have, for instance, statistics of prices, statistics of road accidents, statistics of crimes, statistics of births, statistics of educational institutions, etc. In all these examples, the word statistics denotes a set of numerical data in the respective fields. This is the meaning the man in the street gives to the word Statistics and most people usually use the word data instead.

In the second place:

The word statistics is defined as a discipline that includes procedures and techniques used to collect, process and analyze numerical data to make inferences and to reach decisions in the face of uncertainty. It should of course be borne in mind that uncertainty does not imply ignorance, but it refers to the incompleteness and the instability of data available. In this sense, the word statistics is used in the singular.

As it embodies more or less all stages of the general process of learning, sometimes called scientific method, statistics is characterized as a science. Thus, the word statistics used in the plural refers to a set of numerical information and in the singular, denotes the science of basing decision on numerical data. It should be noted that statistics as a subject is mathematical in character.

In the Third place:

The word statistics are numerical quantities calculated from sample observations: a single quantity that has been so calculated is called a statistic. The mean of a sample for instance is a statistic the word statistics is plural when used in this sense.

Definitions of Statistics:

A.L. Bowley:

“Statistics are numerical statements of facts in any department of enquiry placed in relation to each other.”


“The classified facts respecting the condition of the people in a state—especially those facts which can be stated in numbers or in tables of numbers or in any tabular or classified arrangement.”

“Statistics is a method of decision making. in the face of uncertainty on the basis of numerical data and calculated risk.” Which is close to the modern definition of statistics.

In the Singular Sense:

According to Croxton and Cowden, statistics defined. “collection, presentation, analysis and interpretation of numeric data”. Which is almost exclusive definition of statistics in the singular sense.

In the Plural Sense:

According to Prof. Secrist, “By statistics we mean aggregate c facts effected to a marked extent by multiplicity of causes numerically expressed, enumerated or estimated according to reasonable standard of accuracy collected in a systematic manner for a predetermined purpose and placed in relation to each other. Which is most exhaustive definition, defining statistics in the plural sense. It also points out certain characteristics which a numerical data must possess.

Statistics in both Plural and Singular senses:

“Statistics are the numerical statements of facts capable of analysis and interpretation also the science of statistics is the study of the principles and the methods applied in collecting, presenting analysis and interpreting the numerical data in any field of inquiry.” Which is the modern definition of statistics in both plural and singular senses.”

According to this definition there are four stages:

1. Collection of Data:

It is the first step, and this is the foundation upon which the entire data set. Careful planning is essential before collecting the data. There are different methods of collection of data such as census, sampling, primary, secondary, etc., and the investigator should make use of correct method.

2. Presentation of data:

The mass data collected should be presented in a suitable, concise form for further analysis. The collected data may be presented in the form of tabular or diagrammatic or graphic form.

3. Analysis of data:

The data presented should be carefully analyzed for making inference from the presented data such as measures of central tendencies, dispersion, correlation, regression etc.,

4. Interpretation of data:

The final step is drawing conclusion from the data collected. A valid conclusion must be drawn on the basis of analysis. A high degree of skill and experience is necessary for the interpretation.

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