When genius errs: R.A. Fisher and the lung cancer controversy

Am J Epidemiol. 1991 Mar 1;133(5):416-25; discussion 426-8. doi: 10.1093/oxfordjournals.aje.a115904.


R.A. Fisher's work on lung cancer and smoking is critically reviewed. The controversy is placed in the context of his career and personality. Although Fisher made invaluable contributions to the field of statistics, his analysis of the causal association between lung cancer and smoking was flawed by an unwillingness to examine the entire body of data available and prematurely drawn conclusions. His views may also have been influenced by personal and professional conflicts, by his work as a consultant to the tobacco industry, and by the fact that he was himself a smoker.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Historical Article
  • Portrait

MeSH terms

  • England
  • Epidemiologic Methods
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Lung Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Statistics as Topic / history*

Personal name as subject

  • R A Fisher