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History of Error Analysis

  1. Jan 10, 2015 #1
    Hello, all,

    I am wondering if anyone can provide me information on the historical origin of error analysis; that is, with the quantification and mathematical manipulation of uncertainties in measurement. I find that all the textbooks I have stumbled upon provide a narrative of physical theories, but leave the actual experimental processes opaque. I will be grateful for any lead or inkling provided.

    Thank you for your time.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 11, 2015 #2

    Quantum Defect

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    There are bits of this in introductory books on error analysis. Bevington, "Data Reduction and Error Analysis for the Physical Sciences" is a good intro book.
  4. Jan 11, 2015 #3
    Thank you for the reference. I just found the call number in the library and will take the book out tomorrow.
  5. Jan 12, 2015 #4
    I checked the book out. I find it to be just a rehashing of error analysis. I am looking more for its historical development--the story of how it evolved in the sciences from just armchair observation with little to no actual measuring (like Aristotle) to the mathematical and computational world of error analysis today. Thank you, though.
  6. Jan 12, 2015 #5

    Quantum Defect

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    I found an essay ["Error Theory"] in an Encyclopedia ["Reader's Guide to the Histroy of Science" ] that has some interesting history. The essay is brief, but I learned some things I didn't know -- the article is a "hit-parade" of some pretty famous names -- Bessel, Gauss, Lagrange, Laplace, etc. etc...

    https://books.google.com/books?id=f...e&q=history of science error analysis&f=false

    The essay appears to have a bibliography that would be useful to you at the very beginning, but it looks like Google doesn't want to show it to me. :(

    The essay claims that the start of it all was during the Enlightenment.

    Thanks for pressing this question. I learned something new today!
  7. Jan 12, 2015 #6


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    For the last decades, you can also check publications of experimental results. At least in particle physics, the difference between a paper from 1970 and a modern paper is huge.
  8. Jan 12, 2015 #7
  9. Jan 12, 2015 #8
    That would be a good study as well: how far error analysis has advanced in just forty years. Unfortunately, I have yet to acquire the sophistication to fully appreciate the error-analysis in most professional papers. Thus I must focus on the earlier development first, as it is something I have more proficiency with. All in all, there is much fruit on these here trees.
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