The Median Isn’t the Message – Stephen Jay Gould

Posted by on Aug 27, 2013 in Cool or Curious

This short and classic  piece written by an eminent Harvard evolutionary biologist, is helpful to anyone trying to make sense of the maze of statistics that inevitably accompanies a cancer diagnosis. The author, Stephen Jay Gould, writes about his median “statistical” life expectancy  following his diagnosis of abdominal mesothelioma in 1982. Post-surgery Gould  discovered from the clinical literature on his condition that the “median survival” was eight months. In a few pages  Gould  brilliantly uses the lessons of his own discipline – evolutionary biology – with its foundation principle of  individual variability to dissect and redefine the way in which an individual should appreciate and understand the meaning of statistics. Gould eventually died in 2002 of another cancer, 20 years after his original mesothelioma diagnosis. Click the link to open in your browser, or right click the link  to download the pdf to your computer.

The Median Isnt The Message