William Sealy Gosset – An Inspiring “Student”
Philip J. Boland
School of Mathematical Sciences, University College Dublin, Dublin, County Dublin, Ireland

William Sealy Gosset, better known in the World of Statistics as the Guinness brewer who became the “Student” of Student's t-test of significance, was born in 1876 in Canterbury, England. He studied chemistry and mathematics at New College, Oxford, and on graduating in 1899 joined the St James's Gate Brewery of Arthur Guinness, Son & Co. in Dublin, Ireland. The Guinness Research Laboratories were established in the 1890s, and Gosset was hired to assist in the development and application of scientific methods to brewing. Gosset spent most of his working life with Guinness in Dublin, but moved back to London in 1935 to take up the position of Head Brewer at the new Park Royal Guinness Brewery, and he died soon thereafter in 1937. Much has been written over the years about this immensely talented and modest scientist of diverse interests, who has made such valuable contributions to the development of statistical science.

In a somewhat rambling discourse I intend to highlight some aspects of Gosset's career both from a personal and scientific perspective. In particular by using various quotations from his papers and letters, I intend on commenting briefly on his interactions with some other notable statisticians, the impact of his seminal paper The Probable Error of the Mean”, his Irish life in various residences around Dublin and how these enabled him to pursue his interests in gardening, the origin of the pseudonym “Student”, his interactions with the Irish statistical community, and his diverse interests outside of the brewery.

Keywords: “Student”; Gosset; Guinness Brewery

Biography: Philip J. Boland is Emeritus Professor of Statistics at University College Dublin, where he has been an academic since 1971. His research interests over the years have included reliability theory, stochastic inequalities, order statistics, functional analysis, statistical education and actuarial science. He is a past President of the Irish Statistical Associaton, an elected member of the ISI, and an Honorary Fellow of the Society of Actuaries in Ireland.