25 Facts About Adolphe Quetelet


Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet FRSF or FRSE was a Belgian astronomer, mathematician, statistician and sociologist who founded and directed the Brussels Observatory and was influential in introducing statistical methods to the social sciences.

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Adolphe Quetelet's name is sometimes spelled with an accent as Quetelet.

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Adolphe Quetelet founded the science of anthropometry and developed the body mass index scale, originally called the Quetelet Index.

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Adolphe Quetelet's father was born at Ham, Picardy, and being of a somewhat adventurous spirit, he crossed the English Channel and became both a British citizen and the secretary of a Scottish nobleman.

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At about 31, he settled in Ghent and was employed by the city, where Adolphe Quetelet was born, the fifth of nine children, several of whom died in childhood.

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Adolphe Quetelet studied at the Ghent Lycee, where he afterwards started teaching mathematics in 1815 at the age of 19.

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Adolphe Quetelet received a doctorate in mathematics in 1819 from the University of Ghent.

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Adolphe Quetelet lectured at the museum for sciences and letters and at the Belgian Military School.

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Adolphe Quetelet founded several statistical journals and societies, and was especially interested in creating international cooperation among statisticians.

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Adolphe Quetelet encouraged the creation of a statistical section of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, which later became the Royal Statistical Society, of which he became the first overseas member.

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Adolphe Quetelet was a founding member of the first Societe des douze.

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In 1855, Adolphe Quetelet developed apoplexy, which diminished but did not end his scientific activity.

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Adolphe Quetelet died in Brussels on 17 February 1874, and is buried in the Brussels Cemetery.

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Adolphe Quetelet made significant contributions to scientific development, but he wrote several monographs directed to the general public.

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Adolphe Quetelet founded the Royal Observatory of Belgium, founded or co-founded several national and international statistical societies and scientific journals, and presided over the first series of the International Statistical Congresses.

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Adolphe Quetelet was a liberal and an anticlerical, but not an atheist or materialist nor a socialist.

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Adolphe Quetelet was among the first to apply statistics to social science, planning what he called "social physics".

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Adolphe Quetelet was keenly aware of the overwhelming complexity of social phenomena, and the many variables that needed measurement.

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Adolphe Quetelet's goal was to understand the statistical laws underlying such phenomena as crime rates, marriage rates or suicide rates.

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Adolphe Quetelet wanted to explain the values of these variables by other social factors.

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Adolphe Quetelet wrote about these values as "ideals" with deviations from them as being less than or more than ideal.

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Adolphe Quetelet saw the average body as an ideal beauty and something to be desired and his work was influential on Francis Galton who coined the term eugenics.

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Adolphe Quetelet had a significant influence on Florence Nightingale who shared with him a religious view of statistics which saw understanding statistics as revealing the work of God in addition to statistics being a force of good administration.

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In terms of influence over later public health agendas, one of Adolphe Quetelet's lasting legacies was the establishment of a simple measure for classifying people's weight relative to an ideal for their height.

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Adolphe Quetelet was elected a Foreign Member of the Royal Society in 1839.

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