Study Guide

The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America - Part 3, Chapter 8 The Law of Errors, Section 2 Summary & Analysis

Louis Menand
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Part 3, Chapter 8 The Law of Errors, Section 2 Summary

Benjamin Pierce believed in the theory proposed by Laplace. He helped check facts and data while in Harvard, when his professors were translating Laplace's astronomy series into English.

Benjamin's studies led him to write a paper in which he called Neptune's discovery "a happy accident." However, he was not the only person to make the discovery. A British mathematician and a British astronomer also made the discovery. The Royal Astronomical Society had asked Benjamin not to publish his findings but he did not listen and published them anyway. His calculations proved to be incorrect.

In 1952, he published another paper on the use of outliers. He rejected their use in observations when they were at either extreme from the average observation. This became known as "Pierce's Criterion" and was proven incorrect.

"Pierce's...

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