Arthur Lyon Bowley was born in Bristol, England. His father, James William Lyon Bowley a minister in the Church of England, died in 1870 leaving Arthur's mother, a mother or step-mother to seven children. Arthur was educated at a well-known school, Christ's Hospital. After a successful career there he won a major scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge to study mathematics. He graduated as Tenth Wrangler.

At Cambridge Bowley had a short course of study with the economist
Alfred Marshall who had also been a Cambridge wrangler. Under
Marshall's influence Bowley became an economic statistician. His
*Account of England's Foreign Trade* won the Cobden Essay Prize
and was published as a book. Marshall watched over Bowley's career,
recommending him for jobs and offering him advice. Most notoriously
Marshalll told him the *Elements of Statistics* contained "too
much mathematics."

After leaving Cambridge Bowley taught mathematics in school from 1893 to 1899. Meanwhile he was publishing in economic statistics; his first article for the journal of the Statistical Society (now the Royal Statistical Society) appeared in 1895. In that year the London School of Economics and Political Science opened. Bowley was appointed as a part-time lecturer and he would be connected with the School until he retired in 1936. He can be considered one of the School's intellectual fathers. However he continued to teach elsewhere; for more than a decade he taught at University College, Reading (now the University of Reading). At LSE he was made a Reader in 1908, a Professor in 1915 and in 1919 appointed a newly established Chair of Statistics, probably the first of its kind in Britain.

Bowley produced a stream of studies of British economic statistics
beginning in the 1890s with work on trade and on wages and income and
proceeding to studies of national income in the 1920s and –30s.
(Official national income statistics date only from the Second World
War.) From around 1910 Bowley worked on social statistics as well. In
aim, the work was a continuation of such surveys of social conditions
as Charles Booth's "Life and Labour of the People in London"
(1889-1903) and Seebohm Rowntree's "Poverty, A Study of Town Life"
(1901). The methodological innovation was the use of sampling
techniques. Bowley gave a detailed exposition of his approach to
sampling in a 62 page paper published in 1926. The culmination of
Bowley's work on social surveys was the monumental *New Survey of
London Life and Labour.* Even in the 1930s his research could take a
new direction, as when he collaborated with his junior colleague R G D
Allen on an econometric study of family expenditure.

The *Elements of Statistics* is generally regarded as the first
statistics book in English. It described the techniques of descriptive
statistics that would be useful for economists and social sciences and
in the early editions it contained rather little statistical theory.
That changed in the enlarged 4th edition of 1920. In statistical theory
Bowley was no innovator but drew on the writings of Karl Pearson, Udny
Yule and, most importantly, F.Y. Edgeworth. Bowley paid tribute to the
master by trying to make his contributions accessible but his 1928
book is possibly more impenetrable than the original. In the 1930s
Bowley played the reactionary, informing Fisher that "Professor
Edgeworth had written a great deal on a kindred subject" and slapping
Neyman down with "I am not at all sure that the 'confidence' [in
confidence interval is not a 'confidence trick.'"

Bowley's *The Mathematical Groundwork of Economics* was a
notable attempt to provide the practising economist (rather than the
beginner) with the main ideas and techniques of mathematical economics;
it was the first book in English of its kind. One of its successes was
to bring the Edgeworth box to the attention of economists generally.
was so successful that this is often referred to as the
"Edgeworth-Bowley box"!

Bowley received many honours. In 1922 he was made a fellow of the British Academy and in 1950 he was knighted. He served on the council of the Royal Economic Society and the Econometric Society and was President of the Royal Statistical Society.

According to Allen and George, "In personality Bowley was somewhat shy and retiring. He did not readily make friends and his close friendship with Edwin Cannan over many years was an almost unique experience." They recall a nice anecdote about an occasion when Bowley and Cannan were cycling with Edgeworth. When Edgeworth wanted to discuss a mathematical question Cannan said, "Bowley, let us go a little faster, Edgeworth cannot talk mathematics at more than eight miles an hour."

*A Short Account of England's Foreign Trade in the Nineteenth Century*, 1893.*Wages and Income in the United Kingdom Since 1860*, 1900.*Elements of Statistics*, 1901. (4th edition in 1920)*Livelihood and Poverty: a study in the economic conditions of working-class households*, with A.R. Bennett-Hurst, 1915.*The Division of the Product of Industry*, 1919*The Mathematical Groundwork of Economics*, 1924.*Has Poverty Diminished?*with M.Hogg, 1925.- Measurement of Precision attained in
Sampling
*Bulletin de l'Institut International de Statistique,*1926 *The National Income 1924*with J. Stamp, 1927.- Bilateral Monopoly, 1928,
*Economic Journal.* *F. Y. Edgeworth's Contributions to Mathematical Statistics*, 1928.*New Survey of London Life and Labour*, 1930-35.*Family Expenditure*with R.G.D. Allen, 1935.*Three Studies in National Income*, 1939.

There is an extensive bibliography in Allen and George (1957).

- Allen, R.D.G. and George R. F. (1957) Obituary of
Professor Sir Arthur Bowley.
*Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, A,*102, 236-241.

- Bowley at the LSE.
- Bowley Papers at the British Library of Political and Economic Science
- New School: Arthur Lyon Bowley

The New School entry has a photograph. There is another at

- Bowley on the Portraits of Statisticians page.

For Bowley's contribution to sampling theory put in historical perspective see

*From the Explore Dictionary of Economists*

*Revised 9 June 2005*