Tales of Statisticians
Henry Thomas Buckle
2 Nov 1821 - 29 May 1862
The "oft-refuted Buckle" deserves mention here as the first of the scientific chessplayers, and also, for better or worse, the first of the scientific historians.
He was born at Lee, near London. He was frail in body but wealthy, and devoted himself to the gentlemanly amusements and preoccupations of the day. His chess career probably reached its peak in his 4-game match with Löwenthal in 18XX.
Buckle realized the implications for history of the work being done, largely under the impetus of Quetelet, in the statistical study of populations. The methodological moral of that work is that the systematic features of human behavior emerge only in the mass. In his own historical writings, Buckle similarly shifted the focus of interest from individual exploits to the fate of peoples.
In his Introduction to the (unfinished) History of the English People, he
Buckle died in Damascus of typhoid fever contracted in Jerusalem, on a trip taken to "rest his brain and refresh his spirits." His brain in the end got a longer rest than it had bargained for. His spirit, at the last, was concerned for his still incompletely published works. They were assembled, so far as possible, and published under the care of . . .
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