36 Top-Notch Ronald Fisher Quotes

Ronald Fisher was an English statistician and credited with single handedly creating the foundations for modern statistical science. His first application of the analysis of variance was published in 1921. With almost a century of having his research put into place, here is a look at some of the most notable Ronald Fisher quotes.

“A scientific fact should be regarded as experimentally established only if a properly designed experiment rarely fails to give this level of significance.”

“After all, it is a common weakness of young authors to put too much into their papers.”

“Although no explanation can be expected to be satisfactory, it remains a possibility among others that Mendel was deceived by some assistant who knew too well what was expected.”

“Every experiment may be said to exist only in order to give the facts a chance of disproving the null hypothesis.”

“Experimental observations are only experience carefully planned in advance, and designed to form a secure basis of new knowledge.”

“Fairly large print is a real antidote to stiff reading.”


“However, perhaps the main point is that you are under no obligation to analyse variance into its parts if it does not come apart easily, and its unwillingness to do so naturally indicates that one’s line of approach is not very fruitful.”

“I believe sanity and realism can be restored to the teaching of Mathematical Statistics most easily and directly by entrusting such teaching largely to men and women who have had personal experience of research in the Natural Sciences.”

“I believe that no one who is familiar, either with mathematical advances in other fields, or with the range of special biological conditions to be considered, would ever conceive that everything could be summed up in a single mathematical formula, however complex.”

“If … we choose a group of social phenomena with no antecedent knowledge of the causation or absence of causation among them, then the calculation of correlation coefficients, total or partial, will not advance us a step toward evaluating the importance of the causes at work.”

“If one in twenty does not seem high enough odds, we may, if we prefer it, draw the line at one in fifty (the 2 per cent. point), or one in a hundred (the 1 per cent. point).”

“In scientific subjects, the natural remedy for dogmatism has been found in research.”

“Inductive inference is the only process known to us by which essentially new knowledge comes into the world.”

“Natural selection is a mechanism for generating an exceedingly high degree of improbability.”

“Natural selection is not evolution.”

“No aphorism is more frequently repeated in connection with field trials, than that we must ask Nature few questions, or, ideally, one question, at a time.”

“No efforts of mine could avail to make the book easy reading.”

“No practical biologist interested in sexual reproduction would be led to work out the detailed consequences experienced by organisms having three or more sexes; yet what else should he do if he wishes to understand why the sexes are, in fact, always two?”

“The academic mind, as we know, is sometimes capable of assuming an aggressive attitude. The official mind, on the contrary, is and has to be, expert in the art of self-defense.”

“The actual and physical conduct of an experiment must govern the statistical procedure of its interpretation.”

“The analysis of variance is not a mathematical theorem, but rather a convenient method of arranging the arithmetic.”

“The best causes tend to attract to their support the worst arguments, which seems to be equally true in the intellectual and in the moral sense.”

“The best time to plan an experiment is after you’ve done it.”

“The million, million, million … to one chance happens once in a million, million, million … times no matter how surprised we may be that it results in us.”

“The more highly adapted an organism becomes, the less adaptable it is to any new change.”

“The so-called co-efficient of heritability, which I regard as one of those unfortunate short-cuts, which have often emerged in biometry for lack of a more thorough analysis of the data.”

“The statistician cannot evade the responsibility for understanding the process he applies or recommends.”

“The statistician cannot excuse himself from the duty of getting his head clear on the principles of scientific inference, but equally no other thinking man can avoid a like obligation.”

“The tendency of modern scientific teaching is to neglect the great books, to lay far too much stress upon relatively unimportant modern work, and to present masses of detail of doubtful truth and questionable weight in such a way as to obscure principles.”

“The writer is convinced that this view is wholly mistaken. Nature, he suggests, will best respond to a logical and carefully thought out questionnaire; indeed, if we ask her a single question, she will often refuse to answer until some other topic has been discussed.”

“This is perhaps the most important book on evolutionary genetics ever written.”

“To consult the statistician after an experiment is finished is often merely to ask him to conduct a post mortem examination. He can perhaps say what the experiment died of.”

“We can set no limit to human potentialities; all that is best in man can be bettered; it is not a question of producing a highly efficient machine.”

“We have the duty of formulating, of summarizing, and of communicating our conclusions, in intelligible form, in recognition of the right of other free minds to utilize them in making their own decisions.”

“We have usually no knowledge that any one factor will exert its effects independently of all others that can be varied, or that its effects are particularly simply related to variations in these other factors.”

“We may consequently state the fundamental theorem of Natural Selection in the form: The rate of increase in fitness of any organism at any time is equal to its genetic variance in fitness at that time.”

Here is an amazing interview with Stu Hunter as he discusses two encounters he had with the father of experimental design Sir Ronald A. Fisher.