RSS president David Spiegelhalter is interviewed by Brian Cox in a short BBC programme on two towering figures of statistics, Thomas Bayes and Ronald Fisher. The programme is part of a six-part BBC series, People of Science, which is available on the BBC iPlayer from today (11 January 2017).
In his programme, David talks about why he chose Bayes and Fisher as his 'people of science' and shows how Bayesian ideas are everywhere in the modern world, from email spam filters to machine learning algorithms. He also talks about the importance of Fisher's P-values in scientific research - then demonstrates, using a billiards table, the difference between the two statisticians' approaches to inference.
Each programme features artefacts from the Royal Society’s archives to help bring their stories to life. From 12 February, the series will be available on The Royal Society’s website and on YouTube. The archive items feature in each episode can be explored on Google’s Cultural Institute.
The People of Science series also features an episode where David Attenborough and Brian Cox team up to talk about the importance of the ‘founding father of scientific zoology and botany’, Charles Darwin. Other programmes feature Uta Frith, Julia Higgins, Bill Bryson and Sally Davies, who also reveal their favourite scientists in history. Uta Frith also talks about a statistician: Alice Lee, who worked in biostatistician Karl Pearson's laboratory, and who challenged the theory of the time that a larger human head meant higher intelligence.