Wednesday 10 March 2010

More scientific advances, courtesy of beer

I'd previously noted that there's some chance that Louis Pasteur's work on beer helped lead to his later and more famous work.

Now it seems that Guinness's need for statistical control helped lead to modern statistics. You know the Student's t-test? Student was really William Sealy Gosset, a chemist and brewer working for Guinness who needed better tests for his brewing experiments.
From the outset, Gosset’s focus was practical – as the economist and historian Steve Ziliak has discovered through his work in the Guinness archives. To produce beer to a high standard on an industrial scale, Gosset needed to sample and experiment with hops, malt and barley. But experiments are expensive and Gosset developed his small-sample methods because he wanted to understand how many experiments were necessary to be confident of his results. That was a clear trade-off: how much confidence is “enough” depends on the costs of further research and the benefits of extra precision.
Ok. Germ theory of disease, modern statistics...what other parts of the canon will we eventually find to have been driven by beer?


  1. So would it be reasonable to assume the person who tests Tui is really bad at maths? ;)

  2. Well, they do sell a lot of beer. I'm sure they're very good at the maths of "how can we make the best beer possible that we can still earn decent money selling for less than $0.75 a bottle wholesale including taxes". That that optimization results in a beer I find largely undrinkable doesn't fault their maths....