American Statistical Association

The American Statistical Association

The American Statistical Association was founded on 27 November 1839. At a meeting in Boston on that day, William Cogswell, Richard Fletcher, John Dix Fisher, Oliver Peabody, and Lemuel Shattuck named the new body The American Statistical Society. Fletcher was elected as the President and Shattuck as secretary. In fact it was Shattuck, an eminent statistician-genealogist, who was the driving force behind the Society. The constitution of the Society set out its aims as to:-

... collect, preserve, and diffuse statistical information in the different departments of human knowledge.

The first annual meeting was held in Boston on 5 February 1840 and at this meeting it was agreed to change the name from The American Statistical Society to The American Statistical Association. It remained essentially a local Boston Statistical Association over the first 50 years of its existence with around 100 members. One condition imposed on the members was to:-

... prepare at least one article a year on some statistical subject which shall be at the disposal of the publishing committee.

The first foreign member was Quetelet and another early member was Florence Nightingale.

The expansion of the Association into a national body began under the sixth president Francis A Walker who was elected in 1883. He had been a professor at Yale University and during his presidency of the American Statistical Association he was president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was deeply involved in statistics being head of the American Economic Association, and the Census Director in both 1870 and in 1880. By 1889 the membership had risen to 160 and by 1898 to over 500. The Publications of the American Statistical Association began publication in March 1888 with the first part containing a single article, namely Statistics of water power employed in manufacturing in the United States by George F Swain. For a single volume in 1920-21 it was renamed the Quarterly Publications of the American Statistical Association and from 1922 it became the Journal of the American Statistical Association.

It was not until 1908 that the first annual meeting was held outside Boston, being held in Atlantic City under the next president Carroll D Wright. It was Wright who inaugurated the tradition of having an annual presidential address at the annual meeting. As the Association became a more national organisation the need arose for local branches or Chapters. Twenty-two of these were set up between 1920 and 1943. The Association also introduced specialist sections dealing with specific areas of statistics, the first being the Biometrics Section which was established in 1938. By 1939 the Association had over 3000 members.

After World War II the activity of the Association increased under Presidents such as Shewhart (1945), Wilks (1950), Cochran (1953), and Cox (1956). Twenty-two further Chapters and an additional 5000 members saw a major increase in size of the Association between 1947 and 1964. Currently the Association has more than 17000 members, with 78 Chapters, and 21 Sections.


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JOC/EFR August 2004 School of Mathematics and Statistics
University of St Andrews, Scotland
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