University of York
Department of Mathematics Link to Departmental Home Page

Extract from 'Old memories interviewed' by Mrs Andrew Crosse

The giver of this pleasant picnic was Mr. William Pattison, a bachelor friend of ours, who succeeded in making, as some people can do in London without rank or wealth, a very agreeable circle of acquaintances, more or less distinguished in politics and literature. His special metier was statistics, and I have heard those persons say, who were competent to judge, that Mr. Pattison stood alone in his capacity for certain branches of work. It has been said by some wits that that there are three degrees of unveracity: "Lies, d---d lies, and statistics." The science has a good many hard things said of the use that Buckle and other authors have made of it in the arbitrary classification of facts. In his "History of Civilization," a book that made an immense impression in its day, Buckle appears to assume that human actions are governed by the law of averages; surely does he not mistake a record for an ordinance. I was told by Dr. Noad, a relative of Mr. Buckle, that this remarkable writer was entirely self-taught. His health as a boy was so delicate that he was never sent to school, and was left to learn little or much as he liked. His accumulated knowledge was prodigious and his memory about even trifling things most remarkable, A friend of mine when in his company had occasion to refer to the cultivation of rhubarb, whereupon Buckle immediately said: "The plant was introduced into Europe in 1610, I mean the common garden rhubarb which grows wild in the mountains of Syria and Persia. He then went on to say that this must not be confounted with the official rhubarb of commerce, adding statistics about the latter as an article of import into Great Britain.

The Living Age 195 (Issue 2523) (1892 Nov 5), 372-383 at page 379.

Revised 26 March 2007