Did You Know Crushing Bones Gave Birth To Modern Statistics?

A picture of a historic laboratory

Rothamsted Manor's lab

During the 19th century, animal bones were crushed to extract phosphates to fertilize soils for growing crops. Before this, manure from farm animals and guano collected from bird and bat colonies was the only source of fertilizers.

The important contribution of fertilizers to crop production was proven in the 19th century by Lawes and Gilbert using data from the Broadbalk long-term wheat experiment at Rothamsted [1]. They produced extensive experimental data, establishing that nitrogen applied to soil is essential to fuel agricultural production, and to feed expanding populations. Early in the 20th century, to analyze data from these long-term experiments, Sir Ronald Fisher developed experimental designs and statistical tools which are still taught in universities and used as fundamental techniques today.

A picture showing Sir Ronald Fisher, who co-invented modern statistics,