Document Type



Pearl’s career in statistical and human biology illustrates the individualistic, optimistic, and exuberant style of a frontier in biology during the 1920’s. Originally trained under Karl Pearson, Pearl introduced statistical biology to America in the early 20th century. His reputation as a geneticist and statistician earned his appointment to the School of Hygiene and Public Health at Johns Hopkins in 1918. During the 1920’s Pearl set out to develop a broad program of biological research, covering studies on longevity, senescence, disease, and population growth. Funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, Pearl’s program enjoyed great success at first. But his rival in research, Edwin Bidwell Wilson, was able to seize upon Pearl’s mistakes to seriously weaken Pearl’s credibility as a scientist. Wilson’s attacks reached their peak when he successfully prevented Pearl’s appointment as the head of the Bussey Institution at Harvard in 1929. This scandal forced Pearl to remain at Hopkins until his death in 1940, where he continued his research on the human animal, and his role as scientific gadfly.