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Pearson (Egon) Papers

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0103 E S PEARSON
Held at: University College London
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Full title: Pearson (Egon) Papers
Date(s): 1584-1980
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 113 boxes
Name of creator(s): Pearson | Egon Sharpe | 1895-1980 | statistician
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

Egon Sharpe Pearson was the son of Karl Pearson and his first wife, Maria Sharpe Pearson. He was born in Hampstead in 1895 and had one older and one younger sister; Sigrid Loetitia Sharpe Pearson (later Bousfield) and Helga Sharpe Pearson (later Hacker). Egon was educated at the Dragon School, Oxford, and Winchester College before going up to Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1914. His time at Cambridge was interrupted by a period of war service at the Admiralty and the Ministry of Shipping, and he graduated in 1920. In 1921 E S Pearson took up a post as a lecturer at the Department of Applied Statistics, University College London, which was then headed by his father, Karl Pearson. Egon assisted his father with the editing of the journal Biometrika, eventually taking over the role of managing editor after Karl's death in 1936. On Karl's retirement in 1933 his former department was split into the Eugenics (later Human Genetics) Department, run by R A Fisher, and the Department of Statistics, of which Egon became head. He was made Professor of Statistics in 1935. During the Second World War E S Pearson worked for the Ordnance Board as part of an operational research group for trials of explosive weapons. He returned to UCL after the war at the age of fifty. Egon Pearson had several important working relationships over the course of his career. He is known particularly for his collaboration with Polish mathematician Jerzy Neyman who spent time in the 1920s and 30s as a research fellow and special lecturer at UCL, working with Karl Pearson, Egon Pearson, and R A Fisher. Neyman and Egon Pearson are well known for devising the Neyman-Pearson lemma of hypothesis testing. Pearson was also influenced by W S Gosset [aka "Student"] whom he regarded as "one of the greatest of what might be called real practising statisticians". He drafted a biography of Gosset titled All This and Student Too which was published posthumously as Student: A Statistical Biography of William Sealy Gosset. Pearson also worked closely with Walter Shewhart on statistical technique in standardisation and industrial production..


Scope and content/abstract:

Professional and personal papers and correspondence of Egon Sharpe Pearson, including lecture notes, lecture slides, class papers; statistical research papers; publications and drafts; records relating to the Department of Statistics; papers relating to the journal Biometrika; and papers relating to E S Pearson's collaborative work with Jerzy Neyman, Walter Shewhart, Florence Nightingale David and Herman Otto Hartley. Also includes material used in preparation for a biography of William Sealy Gosset, including correspondence between Gosset and E S Pearson, copies of correspondence between Gosset and Karl Pearson; copies of correspondence between Gosset and R A Fisher; and a draft biography with the working title "All This and Student Too", [published posthumously, edited by Plackett and Barnard, under the title Student: A Statistical Biography of William Sealy Gosset]. Also includes a large collection of personal and family papers, including records relating to the history of the Pearson, Sharpe, Smith, Rogers, Kenrick, Reid and Wharton families dating from the 16th century onwards; personal correspondence of E S Pearson, Karl Pearson, Maria Sharpe Pearson, Sigrid Loetitia Sharpe Pearson, Helga Sharpe Pearson and other family members; family photographs dating from the mid-19th century to mid-20th century; holiday sketches, paintings and diaries; papers relating to Lina Eckenstein; and miscellaneous family memorabilia. Many of the papers have been annotated by E S Pearson explaining their provenance or elaborating on other points. These annotations were probably made in the late 1970s when he was putting his papers in order. Some notes are addressed specifically to his assistant, Jan Abrahams..

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Original order.

Conditions governing access:

Open. The papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to Archives and Manuscripts material, after the completion of a Reader's Undertaking.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Photocopies/photographs/microfilm are supplied for private research only at the Archivist's discretion. Please note that material may be unsuitable for copying on conservation grounds, and that photographs cannot be photocopied in any circumstances. Researchers who wish to publish material must seek copyright permission from the copyright owner.

Finding aids:

Catalogued on CALM to item level.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Received in three accessions: from the Statistics Department, UCL, Feb 1980 and Sep 1981 and from the family, 1996.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Compiled by Sarah Drewery.
Sources: Oxford DNB; Who's Who.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Sep 2008

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