Darwin: The reluctant mathematician

Despite disliking mathematics, the great biologist inadvertently advanced statistics

By Julie Rehmeyer, 14:06 PM February 11, 2009

For all his other talents, Charles Darwin wasn’t much of a mathematician. In his autobiography, he writes that he studied math as a young man but also remembers that “it was repugnant to me.” He dismissed complex mathematical arguments and wrote to a friend, “I have no faith in anything short of actual measurement and the Rule of Three,” where the “Rule of Three” was an extremely simple mathematical calculation.

But history played a joke on the great biologist: It made him a contributor to the...

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