The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Fisher, Ronald Aylmer (1890–1962)

  • A. W. F. Edwards
Reference work entry


R.A. Fisher was born in London on 17 February 1890, the son of a fine-art auctioneer. His twin brother was stillborn. At Harrow School he distinguished himself in mathematics, despite being handicapped by poor eyesight which prevented him working by artificial light. His teachers used to instruct by ear, and Fisher developed a remarkable capacity for pursuing complex mathematical arguments in his head. This manifested itself in later life in his ability to reach a conclusion whilst forgetting the argument; to handle complex geometrical trains of thought; and to develop and report essentially mathematical arguments in English (only for students to have to reconstruct the mathematics later).


Ancillarity Conditional inference Fiducial probability Fisher, R. A. Game theory Likelihood Natural selection Statistical inference 

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  1. Box, J.F. 1978. R.A. Fisher: The life of a scientist. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar

Bibliographic Addendum

  1. A celebrated discussion of Fisherian statistics is L.J. Savage, ‘On Rereading R.A. Fisher (with discussion)’, Annals of Statistics 4 (1976), 441–500. Other interesting writings include B. Efron, ‘R.A. Fisher in the 21st Century’, Statistical Science 31(2) (1998), 95–122, which demonstrates the continuing direct relevance of Fisher’s work; C.R. Rao, ‘R.A. Fisher: The Founder of Modern Statistics’, Statistical Science 7 (1992), 34–48, an appreciation by a former student; and S. Stigler, ‘Fisher in 1921’, Statistical Science 20 (2005), 32–49, which discusses the origins of Fisher’s monumental 1922 paper.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. W. F. Edwards
    • 1
  1. 1.