Joseph Fourier is best known for his work in mathematics (Fourier Series and the Fourier Transform) and for his work on the theory of heat transfer. But his work gathering statistics (the term originally meant quantitative measurements of various important state characteristics, like population, births, deaths, etc.) led to extravagant claims for the determination of random and free events by statistical laws that describe large numbers of such events. Fourier noticed that statistics on the number of births, deaths, marriages, suicides, and various crimes in the city of Paris had remarkably stable averages from year to year. The mean values in a "normal distribution" (one that follows the bell curve or "law of errors") of statistics took on the prestige of a social law. The Belgian astronomer and statistician Adolphe Quételet did more than anyone to claim these statistical regularities were evidence of determinism. The mere fact that the number of marriages is approximately constant from year to year does not determine the independent decision of one individual to marry. The Belgian astronomer Adolphe Quetelet popularized this concept.
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