William Sealy Gosset and William A. Silverman: Two “Students” of Science
In 1908, William Sealy Gosset, a chemist in an Irish brewery, published his second article on statistics in Biometrika under the pseudonym “Student.” He chose this pseudonym because his company did not allow its scientists to publish confidential data. In the article, Gosset described a procedure to assess population means by using small samples. This was the origin of the “Student's t test.” Dr William Silverman (1917–2004), a pioneer neonatologist, also used the pseudonym “Student.” He sent thousands of notes, clippings, anecdotes, and quotations to Pediatrics with the signature line “Submitted by Student” that appeared as blurbs at the ends of articles since 1977. Both Gosset and Silverman were rigorous students of science. Silverman chose pseudonyms to seek readers' responses to the message rather than the messenger. He also wished that one would remain a perpetual student, ready to say “I don't know,” and strive to understand the human side of medicine. This brief article provides a perspective on these 2 “students” of science.