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The Flawed Genius of William Playfair

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Table of Contents

Preface: Playfair Is Introduced

1. Playfair Is Sent to Newgate Prison
2. Playfair Goes to Birmingham to Work for Boulton and Watt
3. Playfair Goes to London to Set Up His Own Business
4. Playfair Evolves into a Writer by Profession
5. Playfair Expresses His Early Political Views
6. Playfair Makes His Mark on Statistical Graphics
7. Playfair Goes to Paris
8. Playfair Tries to Take Advantage of the French Revolution
9. Playfair Escapes from France and Returns to England
10. Playfair Becomes an Avid Anti-Jacobin Propagandist
11. Playfair Gets Involved with Forged Assignats
12. Playfair Starts a Bank and Goes Bankrupt
13. Playfair Ekes Out a Living as a Bankrupt
14. Playfair Has a Good Year during 1805 with Hints of Ending Badly
15. Playfair Has Serious Legal and Other Problems
16. Playfair Dabbles Deeply into Family History and Political Biography
17. Playfair Continues Writing and Tries a Few More Scams to Get to Paris
18. Playfair Returns to Paris
19. Playfair Spends His Last Few Years in England in Poverty

Afterword: Playfair Avoids a Shakespearean Epitaph

Appendix: Assignat Forging by French Emigres in England


About the Author

David R. Bellhouse is a professor emeritus in the Department of Statistical and Actuarial Sciences at Western University.


"No novelist would dare invent so unlikely a rascal as William Playfair: engineer, businessman, pamphleteer, scam-artist, jailbird, and, eventually, pauper, but also the inventor of techniques for the graphical presentation of statistics that are still in widespread use. Bellhouse's biography is simultaneously erudite history of science and highly entertaining reading. Strongly recommended, and not just to academics." - David Laidler, Professor Emeritus of Economics, Western University

"The work is a careful, complete, and compelling biography of William Playfair. With captivating presentation, Bellhouse masterfully melds the historical details crucial for the scholar with the narrative required by a lay reader. This book will be the definitive biography of an important and fascinating character." - Howard Wainer, statistician and author of A History of Data Visualization and Graphic Communication

"William Playfair's character and accomplishments beyond his famous graphics come vividly to the fore in this attractively illustrated biography. Bellhouse's exacting research reveals in forensic detail the nature of this enigmatic figure and the political and financial currents that shaped him." - Stephen M. Stigler, Ernest DeWitt Burton Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of Statistics, University of Chicago

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