Quetelet and the emergence of the behavioral sciences

Gustav Jahoda

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Abstract

Adolphe Quetelet was one of the most prominent figures of the second half of the nineteenth century, yet in present-day histories of several social sciences the impact of his ideas is widely ignored. The first part consists of a sketch of his life and work. Astronomer and statistician, he sought to apply the mathematical tools of astronomy to create was has been called a ‘mathematics of society’. In particular he demonstrated regularities in the incidence of various social phenomena, notably crime, whose implications were widely debated. In the second part the influence he exerted on some key figures in the then emerging social sciences is traced in some detail; these figures include Durkheim, Galton, Marx, and Tylor. He also advocated the wider use of statistics and his call had a powerful impact on the then emerging fields such as administration, economics, sociology and psychology. He influenced some of his most famous contemporaries, including Florence Nightingale, Karl Marx and Francis Galton.

Original languageEnglish
Article number473
Number of pages10
JournalSpringerPlus
Volume4
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 4 Sep 2015
Externally publishedYes

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Keywords

  • behavioural sciences
  • determinism
  • influence
  • nineteenth century
  • Quetelet forgotten
  • statistics

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