The Royal Statistical Society

Founded in 1834

The Royal Statistical Society was founded as the Statistical Society of London in 1834. At a meeting on 15 March 1834 it was unanimously agreed:-
That a Society be established in the name of The Statistical Society of London, the object of which shall be the collection and classification of all facts illustrative of the present condition and prospects of society, especially as it exists in the British Dominions.
This set up the Statistical Society of London. The Marquis of Lansdowne was elected as the first President of the Society. Others who were instrumental in establishing the Society included Charles Babbage, John Elliot Drinkwater, Henry Hallam and the Rev Richard Jones.

The first task which the Society set itself was to create a library of books relevant to statistics. In 1855 they produced the first catalogue of their library, which still exists as a handwritten volume, and by 1885 they had established a library containing 20000 books.

Monthly meetings were held from November to June each year where papers were read and discussed by the fellows of the Society. The number of fellows grew quickly, there being 100 by 1835 and 402 by 1838. Of these 402, 14 were honorary foreign members. The Society set up a number of Committees to look at various aspects of society. For example an investigation in the first couple of years of the Society's existence was into:-
... the state of education in a portion of the parishes of London.
Another Committee was formed with the remit:-
... to collect a statistical account of the various strikes and combinations which have existed in different parts of the United Kingdom for the purpose of altering the rate of wages, and of introducing new regulations between masters and men. Such accounts to exhibit the condition of workmen at the time of the commencement of the strike or combination, and the terms and conditions upon which they resumed work; showing also, as far as the same can be statistically stated, the permanent effects of the several disputes upon the character and condition of the workmen.
Yet another Committee was formed:-
... for the purpose of collecting the Statistics of Life, embracing enumerations of Births, Deaths, and Marriages; and Population, with or without distinction of age, sex, climate, or occupations. To point out the defects in existing observations; to suggest improved forms and methods of gathering Statistics of Life ...
The Society also set about collecting statistics of crime, and the police fully cooperated making their records available for statistical analysis.

In May 1838 the first part of the Journal of the Statistical Society of London was published. This contained an introduction which explained why the Society felt that the time was right to begin a publication:-
The Council of the Statistical Society of London is of the opinion that the time has arrived when the Fellows of the Society, and the public, will hail with satisfaction the appearance of a Journal devoted to the collection and comparison of facts which illustrate the condition of mankind, and tend to develop the principles by which the progress of society is determined.

It is within the last few years only that the Science of Statistics has been at all actively pursued in this country; and it may not, even now, be unnecessary to explain to general readers its objects, and to define its province. The word Statistics is of German origin, and is derived from the word staat, signifying the same as our English word state, or a body of men existing in a social union. Statistics, therefore, may be said, in the words of the prospectus of this Society, to be the ascertaining and bringing together of those "facts which are calculated to illustrate the condition and prospects of society;" and the object of Statistical Science is to consider the results which they produce, with the view to determine those principles upon which the well-being of society depends.
The Society was incorporated by Royal Charter, dated 31 January 1887, and became the Royal Statistical Society. The Charter, from Queen Victoria, detailed the achievements of the Society from its foundation before formally setting up the rules for the Royal Statistical Society:-
And whereas it has been represented to Us that the same Society has, since its establishment, sedulously pursued such its proposed objects, and by its publications (including those of its transactions), and by promoting the discussion of legislative and other public measures from the statistical point of view, has greatly contributed to the progress of statistical and economic science.

And whereas distinguished individuals in foreign countries, as well as many eminent British subjects, have availed themselves of the facilities offered by the same Society for communicating important information largely extending statistical knowledge; and the general interest now felt in Statistics has been greatly promoted and fostered by this Society.

And whereas the same Society has, in aid of its objects, collected a large and valuable library of scientific works and charts, to which fresh accessions are constantly made; and the said Society had hitherto been supported by annual and other subscriptions and contributions to its funds, and has lately acquired leasehold premises in which the business of the said Society is carried on. ....
In 1934, the Society's centenary year, a Supplement to the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society began to be published covering Statistical Methodology. In 1948 the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society was split into two journals when the Supplement became a separate publication Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. Series B (Methodological):-
The objective of papers is to contribute to the understanding of statistical methodology and/or to develop and improve statistical methods.
The original journal was renamed Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. Series A (General). It:-
... publishes papers whose appeal lies in their subject-matter rather than their technical statistical content. Medical, social, educational, legal, demographic and governmental issues are of particular concern.
Today the Royal Statistical Society has around 7200 members.

Visit the society website.

References (show)

  1. J Haigh and AWatkins, Editorial : Restructuring the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, The Statistician 52 (1) (2003), 1-2.
  2. I D Hill, Statistical Society of London - Royal Statistical Society : The first 100 years : 1834-1934, J. Roy. Statist. Soc. Ser. A 147 (2) (1984), 130-139.
  3. R L Plackett, Royal Statistical Society : The last fifty years : 1934--84, J. Roy. Statist. Soc. Ser. A 14 (2) (1984), 140-150.
  4. S Rosenbaum, Precursors of the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, The Statistician 50 (4) (2001), 457-466.

Last Updated August 2004