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May, 1981 Gauss and the Invention of Least Squares
Stephen M. Stigler
Ann. Statist. 9(3): 465-474 (May, 1981). DOI: 10.1214/aos/1176345451


The most famous priority dispute in the history of statistics is that between Gauss and Legendre, over the discovery of the method of least squares. New evidence, both documentary and statistical, is discussed, and an attempt is made to evaluate Gauss's claim. It is argued (though not conclusively) that Gauss probably possessed the method well before Legendre, but that he was unsuccessful in communicating it to his contemporaries. Data on the French meridian arc are presented that could, conceivably, permit a definitive verification of the claim.


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Stephen M. Stigler. "Gauss and the Invention of Least Squares." Ann. Statist. 9 (3) 465 - 474, May, 1981.


Published: May, 1981
First available in Project Euclid: 12 April 2007

zbMATH: 0477.62001
MathSciNet: MR615423
Digital Object Identifier: 10.1214/aos/1176345451

Primary: 62A03
Secondary: 01A55 , 86A30

Keywords: geodesy , History of statistics , Legendre , metric system , nonlinear least squares , priority disputes

Rights: Copyright © 1981 Institute of Mathematical Statistics

Vol.9 • No. 3 • May, 1981
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