Cushny and Peebles, optical isomers and the birth of modern statistics.

  • Competence Center for Methodology and Statistics
December 01, 2017 By:
  • Senn S.

Arthur Cushny was born in Fochabers, Scotland in 1866 and died in Edinburgh in 1926. He had a varied career that included periods in Switzerland, Alsace, America and England. Between 1893 and 1905 he was Professor of Materia Medica and Therapeutics at the University of Michigan and one of his last pieces of research in that post was to collaborate with Alvin Peebles (1884-1917), an instructor at Michigan who had probably been Cushny’s student (Cushny and Peebles 1905). By the time the paper was published, Cushny had already taken up a chair at University College London.
Arthur Cushny was very interested in optical isomerism, which he regarded as a key sign of living matter. He had previously carried out various researches in vitro and in vivo, using animals. The paper he co-authored with Alvin Peebles (Cushny and Peebles 1905) describes some of these experiments in dogs and frogs. These are reported concisely in terms of conclusions, but numerical details are largely absent. The paper ends, however, with a quite different sort of experiment, a clinical trial reported in sufficient numerical detail to have been awarded a special place in the history of statistics.

2017 Dec. J R Soc Med.110(12):501-502.
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