Person: Bowley, Arthur
Arthur Bowley was a leading statistician with an international reputation for his work on poverty. His expertise in mathematics meant that he played an important part in developing the mathematical basis of economics. He was a prolific author publishing many influential books.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- James Bowley died on 1 January 1871 when Arthur was one year old.
- We have treated Arthur Bowley's background in some detail, particularly since it influenced his career being a factor in his research into poverty.
- In 1879 James Bowley began his education at Christ's Hospital School in Newgate Street London.
- This school was another strong influence on Bowley's character, giving him a life-long interest in social problems.
- His mathematics master at Christ's Hospital had predicted that Bowley would be Senior Wrangler in the mathematical tripos but poor health ended any chance of this achievement.
- From October 1891 to March 1892 Bowley studied natural sciences in the Cavendish Laboratory and, at the same time, studied economics advised by Alfred Marshall (1842-1924) who was Professor of Political Economy at Cambridge and had just published his influential text Principles of Economics (1890).
- Marshall suggested that Bowley submit an essay for the 1892 Cobden Essay Prize.
- He submitted An Account of England's Foreign Trade in the Nineteenth Century which won the prize and became Bowley's first publication in 1893.
- The first external lecturer was Francis Edgeworth in 1891, and Bowley was appointed as Newmarch Lecturer for 1894.
- Bowley's final mathematics school teaching appointment was at Clifton College in Bristol before he was appointed as a Lecturer in Mathematics at University College, Reading in 1900.
- At the London School of Economics, Bowley was promoted to Reader in 1908 and, in 1915, he became a professor.
- Three of us were interviewed, and Professor Bowley, a statistician who was head of the department, appointed a Scotch football player.
- Bowley retained this Chair for six years but resigned in 1913 when he was appointed to the Chair of Statistics at the University of London.
- With the undergraduate, groping his way in an endeavour to achieve a statistical frame of mind, Bowley assumed an ability to follow an argument that was not always justified.
- There was perhaps a tendency for Bowley's lectures to develop on occasion into a confidential monologue addressed to the blackboard, as he chalked up line after line of formulae.
- Thus it was that those students who took statistics as a subordinate or voluntary subject were apt to become impatient; but those who were taking statistics as their main subject came sooner or later to realise that the necessity of helping themselves was itself a very real element in the education that Bowley provided and by them he soon became acknowledged as the very great man he was.
- In order to do research under Bowley, one needed already to be mentally prepared to reap the advantage of Bowley's mind.
- The range and quantity of Bowley's work means that it would be difficult here to give a good indication of it.
- First, Bowley was a 'collector and compiler of economic statistics particularly on wages and national income', a field that Marshall argued was crucial.
- Bowley was familiar with the work being done at the Board of Trade.
- This is the Bowley who in co-operation with G H Wood was between 1898 and 1906 constructing the index of the movement of real wages on which economic historians have relied for so long.
- At the heart of Bowley's practical innovation lay his wish to use the mathematics of probability to estimate the degree of error to be found in statistics.
- Bowley received many honours and awards for his outstanding contributions.
- Bowley was the very soul of discretion and only in his last few years would he occasionally reveal to close friends the inner history of this or that event which at the time was a matter of wide speculation.
- It was a rare delight to see Bowley seated at his piano as he played Bach or Haydn with a real personal pleasure.
- In the last year or two of his life he took up weaving (at which Lady Bowley had long been expert) and for this purpose a skein of yarn had to be cut into a number of pieces of similar length.
- There are several of Bowley's pre-1914 students now retired who continue to acknowledge their debt to him, and in this they are joined by his later students and colleagues.
Born 6 November 1869, Bristol, England. Died 21 January 1957, Fernhurst, Surrey, England.
View full biography at MacTutor
Tags relevant for this person:
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive