The Art of Statistics

The Art of Statistics: Learning from Data

By David Spiegelhalter

Sir David John Spiegelhalter is the Chair of the Winston Center for Risk and Evidence Communication at the University of Cambridge. A well-published and often cited researcher, Spieglehalter has published a number of books on statistical methodology. Recently, though, his focus has changed. The Art of Statistics is all about the communication of statistics. Spiegelhalter argues that while data are critical in science and business, data does not speak for itself. Context around the numbers and the visualization of data are critical to telling the story behind the numbers.

In this excerpt, taken from the introduction of his book, Spiegelhalter takes a forensic look at data surrounding the victims of the United Kingdom’s most prolific serial killer, Harold Shipman. A family doctor working in a suburb of Manchester, Shipman injected at least 215 mostly elderly female patients with lethal doses of morphine between 1975 and 1998. Spiegelhalter shows how a simple search for patterns reveals critical details surrounding the deaths and a general understanding of how Shipman went about committing his crimes. It’s an analysis that, if it had been done earlier, almost certainly would have saved lives.

In The Art of Statistics Spiegelhalter shows us how to extract knowledge from raw data, think critically (like a statistician) and explains why a basic grasp of statistical literacy is more important than ever if we hope to separate fact from fiction.

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*Excerpted from The Art of Statistics: How to Learn from Data. Copyright © 2019 by David Spiegelhalter. Available from Basic Books.

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