“Law of Frequency”

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THE term “law of frequency” seems to be used in two distinct senses by mathematical writers. In the ordinary theory the ambiguity leads to little confusion except to beginners; but this is owing to a fortunate, though altogether special, property of the hypothesis on which the theory is based. When we come to investigate other possible theories, it becomes highly important to keep the distinction in mind. Suppose, for clearness' sake, that we have before us a large number of measurements of a single unknown quantity. On examining them we find that a considerable number agree pretty closely with each other, several are more obviously discrepant, while one or two are widely so. Conversely we are led to think of the frequency with which a given measurement occurs as a function of the magnitude of the measurement itself. Denoting this magnitude by x, we may represent the relative frequency of its occurrence by φ(x). This function is called the “law of frequency of the measurement x,” and it is in this sense that statisticians often use the phrase.

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MCALISTER, D. “Law of Frequency”. Nature 20, 337 (1879) doi:10.1038/020337b0

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