Initially appreciated by only a handful of brewers and statisticians, “The Probable Error of a Mean” is now, 100 years later, universally acclaimed as a classic by statisticians and behavioral scientists alike. Written by William Sealy Gosset under the pseudonym “Student,” its publication paved the way for the statistical era that continues today, one focused on how best to draw inferences about large populations from small samples of data.

Gosset and “Student”

Schooled in mathematics and chemistry, Gosset was hired by Arthur Guinness, Son, & Co., Ltd. to apply recent innovations in the field of statistics to the business of brewing beer. As a brewer, Gosset analyzed how agricultural and brewing parameters (e.g., the type of barley used) affected crop yields and, in his words, the “behavior ...

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