*Continuing with the discussion of E.S. Pearson in honor of his birthday:*

**Egon Pearson’s Neglected Contributions to Statistics**

by** Aris Spanos**

**Egon Pearson** (11 August 1895 – 12 June 1980), is widely known today for his contribution in recasting of Fisher’s significance testing into the * Neyman-Pearson (1933) theory of hypothesis testing*. Occasionally, he is also credited with contributions in promoting statistical methods in industry and in the history of modern statistics; see Bartlett (1981). What is rarely mentioned is Egon’s early pioneering work on:

**(i) specification**: the need to state explicitly the inductive premises of one’s inferences,

**(ii) robustness**: evaluating the ‘sensitivity’ of inferential procedures to departures from the Normality assumption, as well as

**(iii) Mis-Specification (M-S) testing**: probing for potential departures from the Normality assumption.

Arguably, modern frequentist inference began with the development of various finite sample inference procedures, initially by William Gosset (1908) [of the **Student’s t** fame] and then **Fisher** (1915, 1921, 1922a-b). These inference procedures revolved around a particular statistical model, known today as *the simple Normal model*:

X_{k} ∽ NIID(μ,σ²), k=1,2,…,n,… (1)

where ‘NIID(μ,σ²)’ stands for ‘Normal, Independent and Identically Distributed with mean μ and variance σ²’. These procedures include the ‘optimal’ estimators of μ and σ², Xbar and s², and the pivotal quantities:

(a) τ(**X**) =[√n(Xbar- μ)/s] ∽ St(n-1), (2)

(b) *v*(**X**) =[(n-1)s²/σ²] ∽ χ²(n-1), (3)

where St(n-1) and χ²(n-1) denote the Student’s t and chi-square distributions with (n-1) degrees of freedom.

The question of ‘how these inferential results might be affected when the Normality assumption is false’ was originally raised by Gosset in a letter to Fisher in 1923:

“What I should like you to do is to find a solution for some other population than a normal one.” (Lehmann, 1999)

He went on to say that he tried the rectangular (uniform) distribution but made no progress, and he was seeking Fisher’s help in tackling this ‘robustness/sensitivity’ problem. In his reply that was unfortunately lost, Fisher must have derived the sampling distribution of τ(**X**), assuming some skewed distribution (possibly log-Normal). We know this from Gosset’s reply:

“I like the result for z [τ(**X**)] in the case of that horrible curve you are so fond of. I take it that in skew curves the distribution of z is skew in the opposite direction.” (Lehmann, 1999)

After this exchange Fisher was not particularly receptive to Gosset’s requests to address the problem of working out the implications of non-Normality for the Normal-based inference procedures; t, chi-square and F tests.

In contrast, **Egon Pearson** shared Gosset’s concerns about the robustness of Normal-based inference results (a)-(b) to non-Normality, and made an attempt to address the problem in a series of papers in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Continue reading