Statistics like many other sciences is a developing discipline. It is not nothing static. It has gradually developed during last few centuries. In different times, it has been defined in different manners. Some definitions of the past look very strange today but those definitions had their place in their own time. Defining a subject has always been difficult task. A good definition of today may be discarded in future. It is difficult to define statistics. Some of the definitions are reproduced here:
The kings and rulers in the ancient times were interested in their manpower. They conducted census of population to get information about their population. They used information to calculate their strength and ability for wars. In those days statistics was defined as
This definition places the entries stress on counting only. A common man also thinks as if statistics is nothing but counting. This used to be the situation but very long time ago. Statistics today is not mere counting of people, counting of animals, counting of trees and counting of fighting force. It has now grown to a rich methods of data analysis and interpretation.
A.L. Bowley has also defined as
This definition is very simple but it covers only some area of statistics. Average is very simple important in statistics. Experts are interested in average deaths rates, average birth rates, average increase in population, and average increase in per capita income, average increase in standard of living and cost of living, average development rate, average inflation rate, average production of rice per acre, average literacy rate and many other averages of different fields of practical life. But statistics is not limited to average only. There are many other statistical tools like measure of variation, measure of correlation, measures of independence etc… Thus this definition is weak and incomplete and has been buried in the past.
Prof: Boddington has defined statistics as
This definition covers a major part of statistics. It is close to the modern statistics. But it is not complete because it stress only on probability. There are some areas of statistics in which probability is not used.
A definition due to W.I. King is “the science of statistics is the method of judging collection, natural or social phenomena from the results obtained from the analysis or enumeration or collection of estimates”. This definition is close to the modern statistics. But it does not cover the entire scope of modern statistics. Secrist has given a detailed definition of statistics in plural sense. His definition is given on the previous. He has not given any importance to statistics in singular sense. Statistics both in the singular and the plural sense has been combined in the following definition which is accepted as the modern definition of statistics.
“statistics are the numerical statement of facts capable of analysis and interpretation and the science of statistics is the study of the principles and the methods applied in collecting, presenting, analysis and interpreting the numerical data in any field of inquiry.”