International Statistical Review

W.F. Sheppard's Smoothing Method: A Precursor to Local Polynomial Regression

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Summary W.F. Sheppard has been much overlooked in the history of statistics although his work produced significant contributions. He developed a polynomial smoothing method and corrections of moment estimates for grouped data as well as extensive normal probability tables that have been widely used since the 20th century. Sheppard presented his smoothing method for actuaries in a series of publications during the early 20th century. Population data consist of irregularities, and some adjustment or smoothing of the data is often necessary. Simple techniques, such as Spencer's summation formulae involving arithmetic operations and moving averages, were commonly practised by actuaries to smooth out equally spaced data. Sheppard's method, however, is a polynomial smoothing method based on central differences. We will show how Sheppard's smoothing method was a significant milestone in the development of smoothing techniques and a precursor to local polynomial regression.

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