Egon Sharpe Pearson Papers

Scope and Content

Professional and personal papers and correspondence of Egon Sharpe Pearson, including lecture notes, lecture slides, class papers; statistical research papers; publications and drafts; records relating to the Department of Statistics; papers relating to the journal Biometrika; and papers relating to E S Pearson's collaborative work with Jerzy Neyman, Walter Shewhart, Florence Nightingale David and Herman Otto Hartley. Also includes material used in preparation for a biography of William Sealy Gosset, including correspondence between Gosset and E S Pearson, copies of correspondence between Gosset and Karl Pearson; copies of correspondence between Gosset and R A Fisher; and a draft biography with the working title "All This and Student Too", [published posthumously, edited by Plackett and Barnard, under the title Student: A Statistical Biography of William Sealy Gosset].

Also includes a large collection of personal and family papers, including records relating to the history of the Pearson, Sharpe, Smith, Rogers, Kenrick, Reid and Wharton families dating from the 16th century onwards; personal correspondence of E S Pearson, Karl Pearson, Maria Sharpe Pearson, Sigrid Loetitia Sharpe Pearson, Helga Sharpe Pearson and other family members; family photographs dating from the mid-19th century to mid-20th century; holiday sketches, paintings and diaries; papers relating to Lina Eckenstein; and miscellaneous family memorabilia.

Many of the papers have been annotated by E S Pearson explaining their provenance or elaborating on other points. These annotations were probably made in the late 1970s when he was putting his papers in order. Some notes are addressed specifically to his assistant, Jan Abrahams.

Administrative / Biographical History

Egon Sharpe Pearson was the son of Karl Pearson and his first wife, Maria Sharpe Pearson. He was born in Hampstead in 1895 and had one older and one younger sister; Sigrid Loetitia Sharpe Pearson (later Bousfield) and Helga Sharpe Pearson (later Hacker). Egon was educated at the Dragon School, Oxford, and Winchester College before going up to Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1914. His time at Cambridge was interrupted by a period of war service at the Admiralty and the Ministry of Shipping, and he graduated in 1920.

In 1921 E S Pearson took up a post as a lecturer at the Department of Applied Statistics, University College London, which was then headed by his father, Karl Pearson. Egon assisted his father with the editing of the journal Biometrika, eventually taking over the role of managing editor after Karl's death in 1936. On Karl's retirement in 1933 his former department was split into the Eugenics (later Human Genetics) Department, run by R A Fisher, and the Department of Statistics, of which Egon became head. He was made Professor of Statistics in 1935.

During the Second World War E S Pearson worked for the Ordnance Board as part of an operational research group for trials of explosive weapons. He returned to UCL after the war at the age of fifty.

Egon Pearson had several important working relationships over the course of his career. He is known particularly for his collaboration with Polish mathematician Jerzy Neyman who spent time in the 1920s and 30s as a research fellow and special lecturer at UCL, working with Karl Pearson, Egon Pearson, and R A Fisher. Neyman and Egon Pearson are well known for devising the Neyman-Pearson lemma of hypothesis testing. Pearson was also influenced by W S Gosset [aka "Student"] whom he regarded as "one of the greatest of what might be called real practising statisticians". He drafted a biography of Gosset titled All This and Student Too which was published posthumously as Student: A Statistical Biography of William Sealy Gosset. Pearson also worked closely with Walter Shewhart on statistical technique in standardisation and industrial production.

E S Pearson was awarded the Weldon Prize in 1935, a CBE in 1946, elected President of the Royal Statistical Society 1955-1956 and elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1966. He was married twice, firstly to Dorothy Eileen Jolly (married 1934 until her death in 1949) and secondly to Margaret Turner (married 1967 until her death in 1975). Following the death of his second wife Egon moved to the Pendean Home, West Lavington, where he died on 12 June 1980. He was survived by Judith and Sarah, his two daughters from his first marriage.


Arranged in 12 sections

Access Information


The papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to Archives and Manuscripts material, after the completion of a Reader's Undertaking.

Acquisition Information

Received in four accessions: from the UCL Department of Statistics (now the Department of Statistical Science), Feb 1980, Sep 1981 and Nov 2013, and from the Pearson family in 1996. Some material was received as part of the Karl Pearson papers but had been moved to the Egon Pearson papers before the collection was catalogued in 2013-2014. There is no record of why this was done, but the origin of this material has been indicated in the relevant catalogue entries.

Other Finding Aids

A full, detailed catalogue is available online.

Related Material

UCL Special Collections also holds records relating to E S Pearson in the following collections:

The Karl Pearson papers (ref: PEARSON);

The Sharpe papers (ref: SHARPE);

Correspondence between E S Pearson and D J Finney (ref: MS ADD 380)

Additional material is held at Cambridge University Library, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives: Egon Pearson Cambridge Lecture notes (ref: MS.Add.7889)