|Quetelet, Lambert Adolphe Jacques (1796-1874)|
22 Feb 1796 in Ghent, Flanders, Belgium
Died: 17 Feb 1874 in Brussels, Belgium
Adolphe Quetelet received his first doctorate in 1819 from Ghent for a dissertation on the theory of conic sections. After receiving this doctorate he taught mathematics in Brussels, then, in 1823, he went to Paris to study astronomy at the Observatory there. He learnt astronomy from Arago and Bouvard and the theory of probability under Joseph Fourier and Pierre Laplace. Influenced by Laplace and Fourier, Quetelet was the first to use the normal curve other than as an error law. His studies of the numerical consistency of crimes stimulated wide discussion of free will versus social determinism. For his government he collected and analysed statistics on crime, mortality etc. and devised improvements in census taking. His work produced great controversy among social scientists of the 19th century.
At an observatory in Brussels that he established in 1833 at the request of the Belgian government, he worked on statistical, geophysical, and meteorological data, studied meteor showers and established methods for the comparison and evaluation of the data.
In Sur l'homme et le developpement de ses facultÚs, essai d'une physique sociale (1835) Quetelet presented his conception of the average man as the central value about which measurements of a human trait are grouped according to the normal curve.
Quetelet organised the first international statistics conference in 1853.