[Ads-l] Quote: If your experiment needs statistics, you ought to have done a better experiment. Attributed to Ernest Rutherford by J. M. Hammersley, Oct. 1961

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Tue Dec 4 16:26:48 UTC 2018

The statement in the subject line appears in "The Oxford Dictionary of
20th Century Quotations" and some other references with a 1967
citation. Rutherford died in 1937. Here is an Oct. 1961 citation.
Antedatings welcome.

[ref] 1962 August, U. S. Army Research Office (Durham), Report No.
62-2, Proceedings of the Seventh Conference on the design of
Experiments in Army Research Development and Testing, Sponsored by the
Army Mathematics Steering Committee conducted at U. S. Army Signal
Research & Development Laboratory, Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, Date:
October 18-20, 1961, Article: Monte Carlo Methods, Author: J. M.
Hammersley (Oxford University and Princeton University), Start Page
17, Quote Page 18, Published by: U. S. Army Research Office (Durham),
Box CM, Duke Station, Durham, North Carolina. (HathiTrust Full

[Begin excerpt]
In Monte Carlo work we can take heed of Lord Rutherford's dictum: "If
your experiment needs statistics, you ought to have done a better
experiment." In a sense, all good Monte Carlo work is
self-liquidating: although we start out with random numbers in order
to solve a problem, which may seem to be intractable by conventional
numerical analysis, nevertheless we should strive to reduce their
influence on the final result, and one should always seize any
opportunity to replace a part or even the whole of the sampling
experiment by exact analysis.
[End excerpt]


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