Re: [R] [OT] "normal" (as in "Guassian")

From: Ted Harding <Ted.Harding_at_manchester.ac.uk>
Date: Sun, 02 Mar 2008 21:52:23 +0000 (GMT)


Thanks, Katherine! Now I wonder what, in particular, Peirce might have had in mind (he was a particularly sharp philosophical thinker, and might be expected to pay attention to the "semantic baggage" of what he said).

I'm also enjoying the other delightful "OT" (= "On Tangent") responses that my query has prompted!

Best wishes to all,
Ted.

On 02-Mar-08 21:19:24, Katharine Mullen wrote:

> There is some information and references regarding the name 'normal' in
> the internet article 'Earliest Known Uses of Some of the Words of
> Mathematics (N)', http://members.aol.com/jeff570/n.html, by John
> Aldrich.
> 
> It contains the comment, "Galton does not explain why he uses the term
> "normal" but the sense of conforming to a norm ( = 'A standard, model,
> pattern, type.' (OED)) seems implied."
> 
> On Sun, 2 Mar 2008 Ted.Harding_at_manchester.ac.uk wrote:
> 

>> Hi Folks,
>> Apologies to anyone who'd prefer not to see this query
>> on this list; but I'm asking because it is probably the
>> forum where I'm most likely to get a good answer!
>>
>> I'm interested in the provenance of the name "normal
>> distribution" (for what I'd really prefer to call the
>> "Gaussian" distribution).
>>
>> According to Wikipedia, "The name "normal distribution"
>> was coined independently by Charles S. Peirce, Francis
>> Galton and Wilhelm Lexis around 1875."
>>
>> So be it, if that was the case -- but I would like to
>> know why they chose the name "normal": what did they
>> intend to convey?
>>
>> As background: I'm reflecting a bit on the usage in
>> statistics of "everyday language" as techincal terms,
>> as in "significantly different". This, for instance,
>> is likely to be misunderstood by the general publidc
>> when they encounter statements in the media.
>>
>> Likewise, "normally distributed" would probably be
>> interpreted as "distributed in the way one would
>> normally expect" or, perhaps, "there was nothing
>> unusual about the distribution."
>>
>> Comments welcome!
>> With thanks,
>> Ted.
>>
>> --------------------------------------------------------------------
>> E-Mail: (Ted Harding) <Ted.Harding_at_manchester.ac.uk>
>> Fax-to-email: +44 (0)870 094 0861
>> Date: 02-Mar-08 Time: 13:04:17
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E-Mail: (Ted Harding) <Ted.Harding_at_manchester.ac.uk> Fax-to-email: +44 (0)870 094 0861
Date: 02-Mar-08                                       Time: 21:52:20
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