To celebrate European Statistics Day, the RSS has contributed to a memorial plaque in memory of statistician and anti-slavery campaigner Zachary Macaulay, who used his statistical skills to help abolish slavery within the British Empire in the 19th century.
The plaque was unveiled yesterday (Friday 19 October 2018) in St George’s Gardens, London to commemorate the 250th anniversary of Macaulay's birth.
According to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Zachary Macauley was 'a brilliant statistician blessed with a prodigious memory … [and] a rare gift for being able to master and abridge the most intractable sources'.
Macaulay was friends with William Wilberforce, founder of anti-slavery movement and in the late 18th century, became active in the campaign to abolish the slave trade. While an 1807 Act of Parliament made the slave trade illegal throughout the British Empire, slavery was still not stamped out and Macaulay showed, via his monthly Anti-Slavery Reporter publication, the true scale of slavery that was still ongoing. This provided the evidence with which the abolitionists could take their stand in Parliament.
In 1833, Wilberforce said Macaulay had 'done more towards this consummation [abolishing slavery] than any other man'. He was also described by William Gladstone as 'the unseen modest ally of Wilberforce'.
After his death in 1838, Macaulay was buried in St George’s Gardens which has since become a public park and this is where the plaque, donated by the Royal Statistical Society, The Friends of St George’s Gardens, University College London and the Clan Macaulay Association, is now installed.
You can read more about Macaulay’s life in the current issue of Significance magazine.