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A: Brussel, Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest, Belgium

Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet Establishes the Mathematical Study of Anthropological Data

portrait of Lambert Adolphe Quetelet
Lambert Adolphe Quetelet

In 1871 Belgian astronomer, mathematician, statistician and sociologist Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet published in Brussels Anthropométrie ou mesure des différentes facultés de l'homme. In Anthropmétrie and in Physique sociale ou essai sur le developpement des facultés de l'homme (1869), Quetelet established the basis for mathematical study of anthropological data. "Quetelet showed that if a series of anthropological measurements of either physical or intellectual qualities were plotted on squared paper, allowing x to be the measurements and y to be their frequency, they formed a curve like that representing the expansion of the binomial, or like that formed by plotting the errors of a great number of observers [i.e., the Gaussian curve]" (Penniman, 105). By applying the mathematics of the Gaussian curve to anthropological data, it became possible to plot the average or "standard" deviation from the statistical average, and thus to interpret anthropological data with greater exactness.

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