Statistics, the science of collecting, analyzing, presenting, and interpreting data is believed to have been derived from the Latin word “Statistic”. In early days, Statistics was used only of the collection of the information of the population of the state military. But in the modern time it is used in almost all aspects of human related activities. Statistics can be defined in two sense i.e., singular and plural. In singular sense it may be defined as the various methods and techniques for attaining and analyzing the numerical information. Different economists have different view about statistics. According to Boddingtons Statistics is, “the science of estimates and probabilities”. In plural sense, statistics means the aggregates of numerical facts collected systematically. The most popular and acceptable definition is given by Horace and Secrist. According to them, “Statistics means the aggregate of face affected to a market extent by multiplicity of course, numerically expressed, enumerated or estimated according to reasonable standard of accuracy collected in a systematic manner for pre-determined purpose and placed in relation to each other. The importance of statistics can be defined in different parts i.e., statistics in planning in economics, in business etc because statistical methods are used in every economic related areas. The function of statistics can be defined on the following points: Statistics simplify’s complexes, Statistics express facts in definite form, it facilities comparison, it helps in formulating policies and Statistics helps in forecasting. Statistics is extremely useful in economics field but it has some limitations in itself which are as follow: Statistics doesn’t deal with the individual, Statistics doesn’t study qualitative phenomenon, Statistical laws are not exact, Statistics is liable to be misused and Statistics is only means. Statistics is comparatively new subject, which branched from Probability Theory and is widely used in areas such as Economics, Astrology, Agriculture, Medicine etc. The history of Statistics can be firstly traced back to the 1600’s and John Graunt (1620-1674) could be considered as the pioneer of statistics and as the author of the first book regarding statistics. He published Natural and Political observations on the Bills of Mortality in 1662 whereby he was studying the plague outbreak in London at the time requested by the King. Graunt was asked to come up with a system that would allow them to detect threats of further outbreaks, by keeping records of mortality and causes of death and making an estimation of the population. Graunt by forming the life table, discovered that ‘statistically’, the ratio of male to females are almost equal. Then in 1666, he collected data and started to examine life expectancies. All of this was fundamental as he was arguably the first to create a condensed life table from large data and was able to do some analysis on it. This is widely used in life insurance today, showing the importance and significance of Graunt’s work (Stigler, 1986, Verduin, 2009). In 1693, Edmond Halley extended Graunt’s thoughts and formed the first mortality table that statistically made the relationship between age and death rates. Abraham De Moivre (1667-1823) is another contributor who was the first person to identify the properties of the normal curve and in 1711, introduced the notion of statistical independence (Verduin, 2009). De Moivre in 1724, studied mortality statistics and laid down foundations of the theory of annuities, widely used in the Finance industry today, motivated by the work of Halley. De Moivre then gave idea of the normal distribution which can be used to approximate the binomial distribution (O’Connor and Robertson, 2004). William Playfair (1759-1823) was the person who invented statistical graphics, we believed that charts were a better way to represent data, which included the line graph and the bar graph chart in 1786 and the pie chart in 1801. This was a milestone as these graphical representations are used everywhere today, the most notable being the time-series graph, which is a graph containing many data points measured at successive uniform intervals over a period of time. These graphs could be used to predict future data (Robyn 1978). The application of Statistical methods to Social Sciences was discussed by Adolphe Quetlet (1796-1874) in 1835. He was interested in studying about human characteristics and suggested that the law of errors, which are commonly used in Astronomy, could be applied when studying people and through this, assumptions or predictions could be in regards to physical features and intellectual features of a person. Through Quetlet’s studies, he discovered that the distribution of certain characteristics when he made a diagram of it was in a shape of a bell curve. He is also well known for the coming up with a formula called the Quetlet Index, or more commonly known as Body Mass Index, which is an indication or measure for obesity. Other members who made little but significance contributions to Statistics are Carl Gauss and Florence Nightingale. Gauss was the first person who played around with the least squares estimation method when he was interested in astronomy and attempted to predict the position of a planet. He later proved this method by assuming the errors are normally distributed. Nightingale, first female to be a member of the Royal Statistical Society was inspired by Quetlet’s work on statistical graphics and produced a chart detailing the deaths of soldiers where she worked. She later went on to analyse that state and care of medical facilities in India. This was significant as Nightingale applied statistics to health problems and this led to the improvement of medical healthcare. The other greatest contributors was Francis Galton (1822-1911) who helped create a statistical revolution which laid foundations for future statisticians like Karl Pearson and Charles Spearman (Stigler, 1986). He came up with a number of vital concepts, including the regression, standard deviation and correlation, which came about when Galton was studying sweet peas. He discovered that the successive sweet peas were of different sizes but regressed towards the mean size and the distribution of their parents (Gavan Tredoux, 2007). He later went on to work with the idea of correlation when he was studying the heights of parents and the parent’s children when they reach adulthood, where he made a diagram of his findings and found an obvious correlation between the two. The Government has been celebrating 29th June, the Statistics Day, on the birth anniversary of Prof. P C Mahalanobis, to popularize the use of Statistics in everyday life and sensitize the public as to how Statistics helps in shaping and framing policies. The development and wellbeing are the two burning issues of each and every country of the world for Sustainable development. In 2015, the members of the United Nation (UN) adopted an agenda for sustainable development. All UN member countries signed an ambitious package of goals called “Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”. According to this agreement signed by UN members, is to make greater efforts to end poverty and hunger; protect the Earth, defend human rights, and promote equality between men and women. The package contains a total of 17 goals that are to be achieved by 2030. P.C. Mahalanobis, in full Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis, (born June 29, 1893, Calcutta [now Kolkata], India—died June 28, 1972, Calcutta), Indian statistician who devised the Mahalanobis distance and was instrumental in formulating India’s strategy for industrialization in the Second Five-Year Plan (1956–61). Born to an academically oriented family, Mahalanobis pursued his early education in Calcutta (now Kolkata). After graduating with honours in physics from Presidency College, Calcutta, in 1912, he moved to England to study physics and mathematics at the University of Cambridge. Just before Mahalanobis left the university in 1915, he was introduced to statistics by one of his tutors. When he returned to India, he accepted a temporary position teaching physics at Presidency College, and he became a professor of physics there in 1922. However, his interest in statistics had evolved into a serious academic pursuit, and he applied statistical methods to problems in anthropology, meteorology, and biology. On December 17, 1931, he established the Indian Statistical Institute in Calcutta.
Mahalanobis devised a measure of comparison between two data sets that is now known as the Mahalanobis distance. He introduced innovative techniques for conducting large-scale sample surveys and calculated acreages and crop yields by using the method of random sampling. He devised a statistical method called fractile graphical analysis, which could be used to compare the socio-economic conditions of different groups of people. He also applied statistics to economic planning for flood control. With the objective of providing comprehensive socio-economic statistics, Mahalanobis established the National Sample Survey in 1950 and also set up the Central Statistical Organization to coordinate statistical activities in India. He was also a member of the Planning Commission of India from 1955 to 1967. The Planning Commission’s Second Five-Year Plan encouraged the development of heavy industry in India and relied on Mahalanobis’s mathematical description of the Indian economy, which later became known as the Mahalanobis model. A series of events across India are planned in recognition of Mahalanobis invaluable contribution in establishing the National Statistical System. It is expected that these events will raise public awareness especially among the younger generation about the role of Statistics in socio-economic planning and policy formulation. Basically through the 1920s and up to 1931 almost all statistical work done in India was by Mahalanobis. Under Mahalanobis’s leadership the Indian Statistical Institute flourished as many great personalities like R.A.Fisher, R. C. Bose, C.R.Rao etc were associated with him. Mahalanobis received many honours for his remarkable contributions to the development of statistics and to life in India. For example he was awarded the Weldon Medal and prize from Oxford University (1944), the Sir Deviprasad Sarvadhikari Gold Medal (1957), the Gold Medal from the Czech Academy of Sciences (1964), and the Durgaprasad Khaitan Gold Medal from the Asiatic Society (1968). He was President of the Indian Science Congress in 1950 and President of the International Statistical Institute in 1957. He was elected a fellow of many societies and academies such as: the Royal Society of London (1945), the Econometric Society, United States (1951), the Pakistan Statistical Association (1952), the Royal Statistical Society, U.K. (1954), the USSR Academy of Sciences (1958), and the American Statistical Association (1961). He received honorary degrees from the University of Calcutta (1957), Sofia University (1961) and the University of Delhi (1964). In 1959 he was elected an Honorary Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge. In 1968 the Government of India awarded him the Padma Vibhushan:-… for his contribution to science and services to the country. To end this short article about Mahalanobis, we quote the first paragraph of C R Rao’s article. The Professor, as Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis was known in India, passed away on 28 June 1972, three weeks after an abdominal operation in Calcutta. The death occurred one day before his 79th birthday, when he was still active doing his research work, looking after the Indian Statistical Institute as Honorary Secretary and Director and helping the Government as Honorary Statistical Adviser. The ‘Mahalanobis Era’ in statistics which started in the early twenties has ended. Indeed it will be remembered for all time to come as the golden period of statistics in India, marked by intensive development of a new technology and its applications for the welfare of mankind. The Statistics Day 2021 is Celebrated on June 29 to to popularise the use of Statistics in everyday life and sensitise the public as to how Statistics helps in shaping and framing policies. This time first time in the history of SKUAST-K Dr. Bilal Ahmad Bhat (Associate Professor, Statistics) is organizing One Day National Conference in honour of great Statistician Professor P.C.Mahalanobis.
(Author is Professor and Head, Division of Social Science, FoFy, at S K University Of Agriculture Sciences & Technology Kashmir -SKUAST-K, Shalimar Srinagar. He writes regularly and exclusively for the opinion pages of “ Kashmir Horizon”. Views are his own)
(The author a teacher at S K University of Agriculture Sciences & Technology-SKUAST Srinagar writes on Islamic topics exclusively for “Kashmir Horizon”. His views are personal)