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Ronald Fisher

Sir Ronald Aylmer Fisher FRS (17 February 1890 – 29 July 1962), who published as R.

A. Fisher,was an English statistician, geneticist and eugenicist who used mathematics to combine Mendelian genetics and natural selection. This contributed to the revival of Darwinism in the early 20th century revision of the theory of evolution known as the modern synthesis. Fisher was also a leading proponent of eugenics, who held lifelong (and completely discredited) views on race.

In his scientific career, Fisher worked at the Rothamsted Experimental Station (now Rothamsted Research), for 14 years from 1919, where he developed the analysis of variance (ANOVA) to analyse its immense data gathered from crop experiments as far back as the 1840s. He established his reputation as a biostatistician there. He is known as one of the three principal founders of population genetics. He outlined Fisher's principle as well as the Fisherian runaway and ‘sexy son hypothesis’ theories of sexual selection. He also made important contributions to statistics, including the maximum likelihood, fiducial inference, the derivation of various sampling distributions among many others.

Anders Hald called him "a genius who almost single-handedly created the foundations for modern statistical science". Fisher was an original thinker in neo-Darwinian synthesis. He was also a key figure in experimental design, providing researchers in biology and medicine with their most important research tools, as well as with the modern version of biology's central theorem. Geoffrey Miller said of him: “To biologists, he was an architect of the ‘modern synthesis’ that used mathematical models to integrate Mendelian genetics with Darwin's selection theories. To psychologists, Fisher was the inventor of various statistical tests that are still supposed to be used whenever possible in psychology journals. To farmers, Fisher was the founder of experimental agricultural research, saving millions from starvation through rational crop breeding programs”. Today, Fisher’s legacy is seen as far more problematic: his views on supposed racial differences were integral to his scientific outlook, and have led researchers to both re-evaluate his life and to apply his statistical methods with careful thought about their origins and purposes.