This article is from the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica. Medical science has made many leaps forward since it has been written. This is not a site for medical advice, when you need information on a medical condition, consult a professional instead.
WILLIAM FARR (1807-1883), English statistician, was born at Kenley, in Shropshire, on the 30th of November 1807. When nineteen he became the pupil of a doctor in Shrewsbury, also acting as dresser in the infirmary there. He then went to Paris to study medicine, but after two years returned to London, where, in 1832, he qualified as L.S.A. Next year he began to practise, but without very brilliant results, for five years later he definitely abandoned the exercise of his profession on accepting the post of compiler of abstracts in the registrar-general's office. The commissioners for the 1841 census consulted him on several points, but did not in every case follow his advice. For the next two decennial censuses he acted as assistant-commissioner; for that of 1871 he was a commissioner, and he wrote the greater part of the reports of all. He had an ambition to become registrar-general; and when that post became vacant in 1879, he was so disappointed at the selection of Sir Brydges Henniker instead of himself, that he refused to stay any longer in the registrar's office. He died of paralysis of the brain a year or two later, on the 14th of April 1883. A great part of Farr's literary production is to be found in the papers which, from 1839 to 1880, he wrote for each annual report of the registrar-general on the cause of the year's deaths in England. He was also the author of many papers on general statistics and on life-tables for insurance, some read before the Royal Statistical Society, of which he was president in 1871 and 1872, some contributed to the Lancet and other periodicals. A selection from his statistical writings was published in 1885 under the editorship of Mr Noel Humphreys.
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