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History of the Department of Statistics

The department that exists today can be traced back, on the one hand, to the statistical program organised starting in 1889 by Pontus Fahlbeck (1850–1923), who was professor of political science and statistics at Lund University, and on the other hand, to the research done by Professor Carl Charlier (1862–1934), an astronomer with a strong interest in statistics. Charlier, although not formally a professor of statistics, acted as such at Lund during the first decades of the 20th century.

The first chair in statistics in Sweden was established 1910 in Uppsala. During the next 15 years there were several proposals for also establishing such a chair in Lund. In 1915 Sigfrid Wallengren (1876–1927) succeeded Fahlbeck as professor of political science and statistics. However, Wallengren was preoccupied with other matters and Charlier’s student Sven Wicksell (1890–1939) became the de facto teacher of statistics (and mathematical statistics) in Lund. Statistics was established as a regular subject in Lund 1918. On the 24th of April, 1926, the chair of political science and statistics has been split into two separate chairs: one in political sciences that continued to be held by Wallengren and the other one in statistics to which Wicksell was summoned. Wicksell’s research interests included, apart from astronomy, demography and social sciences, and he studied as well the economic conditions of university students. (Trivia: Wicksell was the son of the famous economist Knut Wicksell.)

The Department of Statistics was established in 1929 and in 1941 Wicksell was succeeded at the Department by the legendary professor Carl-Erik Quensel (1907–1977), who was professor here for more than 30 years (1941–1974). Scientifically his research was devoted primarily to demography. As a person, he was a bit eccentric; he would visit the oral defences of dissertations in other subjects and criticise the presenter fiercely if he deemed it necessary. He is also known for having passed a student conditioned on that student promising to “never, ever practise statistics”. To this day he is still referred to by many simply as “Q”.

From the onset the Department was part of the Faculty of Philosophy, and when that faculty was divided in 1956, the department became a part of the Faculty of Humanities. In the mid 1960’s the social sciences (including statistics) formed the Faculty of Social Sciences. Since 2001 the Department of Statistics is a part of LUSEM.

Over the years, the Department has been housed in various locations (e.g. Sölvegatan, Dag Hammarskjölds väg and Scheelevägen), but since 2012 the Department is located in the Holger Crafoord Centre, Tycho Brahes väg 1.

Picture of Carl-Erik Quensel
Carl-Erik Quensel (1907–1977)
Picture of Sven Wicksell
Sven Wicksell (1890–1939)