The Fisher digitisation projects
After the death of this remarkable scientist in Adelaide on 29 July 1962, the editing of his Collected Papers was undertaken by J.H. Bennett, then Professor of Genetics at the University of Adelaide, a former student, research assistant, colleague and friend of Fisher at Cambridge and closely associated with him after Fisher came to Adelaide in 1959 on a visit to the CSIRO Division of Mathematical Statistics. These were published in five volumes by the University between 1971 and 1974 in an edition of 1000 copies. Two further collections were subsequently edited by Professor Bennett with selections from Fisher’s correspondence, Natural selection, heredity, and eugenics: Including selected correspondence of R.A. Fisher with Leonard Darwin and others (Clarendon Press, 1983) and Statistical inference and analysis: Selected correspondence of R.A. Fisher (Clarendon Press, 1990).
Fisher’s archives are held within the Special Collections of the Library of the University of Adelaide and they are attracting many research enquiries from within Australia and overseas. In 2000 the Library undertook to progressively digitise selections from Fisher’s published and unpublished work in order to further publicise his scientific contributions and make his work more readily available to users beyond Adelaide.
First, substantial material from the Collected Papers was scanned and made available electronically, including the bibliography of Fisher's publications from Volume 1 of the Papers and the biographical memoir of Fisher by F. Yates and K. Mather published originally in the Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society of London in 1963. In 2002 Natural selection, heredity, and eugenics and Statistical inference and analysis, which were by then out-of-print, were also scanned and made available on the Library’s website. Later that year a major project was commenced to scan and make available online selections from Fisher’s extensive unpublished correspondence (Series 1 of his archival collection). Initially it was proposed to include only Fisher’s own letters, but the project has now been expanded to include the letters of some of his correspondents. This has been made possible by the generous support of a number of descendants of Fisher’s correspondents, including Randal Keynes (through whom permission was obtained to include letters to Fisher from Leonard Darwin, Charles Galton Darwin and Nora Barlow), Dr Robert Mather and others.
These projects are very much the
initiative of Prof. J.H. Bennett,
has undertaken the selection of the correspondence and provided funding
for the staff to undertake scanning and calendaring from the fund
from sales of the Collected Papers publication. The extensive
of image manipulation and the creation and maintenance of the Fisher
has been undertaken by Elise Bennetto of the Library’s Special
with support and advice from the Library’s Senior Systems Analyst Steve
Thomas, and scanning has been facilitated by a planetary scanner
by the Library under a grant from the University's Learning and
budget. Everyone involved with these projects owes much to Susan
Woodburn, Special Collections Librarian when most of this work was
undertaken. Susan was responsible for much of the calendaring of the
correspondence, and her generous assistance an dguidance throughout has
The success of these projects is indicated by the high rate of hits on the Fisher website, a request from the American Statistical Association to mirror the site, and emailed comments like these: