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Dennis Lendrem
Dennis Lendrem
MSc in Medical Statistics, PhD from Oxford. Background in Pharmaceutical R&D. Contributor to popular magazines and trade magazines including Scrip Magazine, New Scientist and the Economist. Formerly Editor of the journal Pharmaceutical Statistics.
Posted in Law / Intellectual Property

Stigler's Law, Bayes' Theorem and Intellectual Property Rights

Aug. 15, 2011 1:27 pm
Write a wise saying and your name will live forever.
- Anon

Many a scientist dreams of being the first to a new scientific discovery. For their name to live on in the form of an eponymous theory or law such as Newton's Laws or Einstein's Theory. Sadly, it doesn't always work like that. If you want your name to live on you might want to bring in your public relations people.


Well, Stigler's Law states that:

No scientific discovery is named after its original discoverer.

(In a nice touch Stephen Sigler attributes Stigler's Law to the sociologist Robert Merton.)

Back in 1984 I learned that one of my heroes, the statistician Thomas Bayes, was not the first to stumble upon Bayes' Theorem[1]. That he was beaten to it by Nicholas Saunderson[2]. But who remembers Nicholas Saunderson?

And so I made a mental note. As soon as I discover Lendrem's Laws I have to get my PR people involved and have it tied up by my crackerjack legal team.

I don't know what Lendrem's Laws are just yet but when I do you can be sure the intellectual property rights will be sewn up good and tight.


[1] Stephen M. Stigler (1983), "Who Discovered Bayes' Theorem?" The American Statistician 37(4):290–296.

[2] This is still disputed.

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