The German Statistical Society was established in 1911 as a branch of the German Society for Sociology, which previously had separated itself from the Association for Social Policy, which at that time unified the most well-known German political economists, sociologists and statisticians. As indicated by this historical background, in its early days the German Statistical Society exclusively focused on economy and society as statistic's main fields of application.
The Director of the Royal Bavarian Regional Statistical Office, Georg von Mayr, had been the first chairman of the Society, while at the same time being full Professor for Political Economy, Public Finance and Statistics at the University of Munich. Periodicals published by the Society were the "Allgemeines Statistisches Archiv" - founded by von Mayr in 1890 and still published today - as well as the "Deutsches Statistisches Zentralblatt", published from 1914 to 1944. As a forum for discussions of scientific and organizational questions Annual Meetings were introduced. Since 1928 they are part of the "Statistical Week", jointly organized with the Union of German Municipal Statisticians. Since its early days, the German Statistical Society has been particularly concerned with statistics as a subject of academic education. Beyond that, the Annual Meetings primarily addressed subjects like population statistics as well as methodological, institutional, and economic- related statistical topics and others.
After the death of von Mayr in 1925, Friedrich Zahn, President of the Bavarian Regional Statistical Office and Professor in Munich became his successor and remained in charge until 1943. Zahn was a renowned statistician of high national and international reputation. From 1931 to 1936 he was President and afterwards Honorary President of the International Statistical Institute (ISI). During his term of presidency, the membership of the German Statistical Society rapidly rose from 160 to 280. The variety of subjects also expanded considerably, now additionally covering topics like business cycles, business administration and epistemology, as well as selected aspects of the population census. Problems concerning the "representative method" and the relationship between statistics and mathematics were also addressed. German statisticians, however, kept a critical distance towards these topics. Representatives belonging to the mathematical-statistical theory hardly gained influence at that time. In 1929 the German Statistical Society finally detached itself from the German Society for Sociology.
The National Socialists' rise to power 1933 lead to the party's absolute control over all associations, unless they disintegrated themselves. Zahn placed himself behind the new government without any restraints and identified new tasks rising in the field of statistics, while at the same time asserting the other members' right to freely pursue their scientific interests. Noteworthy is, that between 1933 and 1938, over a third of the members either resigned or was "cancelled" from membership. On the other hand, new members joined the Society, compensating for the loss and the decedents.
As regards content at that time, an adaptation to the interests of the National Socialist Government is evident. Economic planning, population policy, introduction of the compulsory military service, genetic and racial research gave rise to statistical inquiries. Not all this research had an ideological character, but part of it to an alarming degree. At the same time, however, methodological research continued to explore the role of statistics in the social sciences (Zizek, Flaskämper, Blind), the problem of statistical inductions (Peter), as well as the relationship between mathematics and statistics (Burkhardt). A general characteristic of all these activities, however, was the almost complete isolation from all international developments.
After Zahn's resignation, Johannes Müller, who was his deputy for many years, became his successor until the end of the war. Since the early twenties Johannes Müller was President of the Thuringian Regional Statistical Office and, at the same time, Professor in Jena.
Following World War II, official statistics were re-installed rather quickly in order to support the newly established political system as well as to promote Germany's economic development. Due to the efforts of Karl Wagner, then President of the Bavarian Regional Statistical Office, the German Statistical Society was founded new in 1948. Reviving the Society's traditional focus on economic and social statistics, Wagner aimed at overcoming the international isolation, at catching up on the backlog in research and at also including the more mathematically oriented statistics. Particularly promoted were theory, methodology and the implementation of sampling procedures. Furthermore sections or study groups for "Sampling Methods", "Questions of Statistical Education", "Industrial Application of Statistical Methods" (with two subsections) and "Regional Statistics" were founded. A study group for "Quality Control in Statistics" had only a short life span. After re-establishment the membership however quickly rose to over 400.
As part of the topical framework of the Annual Meetings, there are now in addition to traditional fields (university education, official statistics, economic and business statistics) also sampling procedures and national accounts. Hotly debated in addition were questions of statistical methodology in the social sciences.
As Wagner, because of a long disease, could not run for office again in 1960, Gerhard Fürst, President of the Federal Statistical Office, was elected Chairman and the office was moved to Wiesbaden. His term of office also lasted 12 years. In the work of the sections there were expansions as well as consolidations. Moreover, Fürst introduced annual advanced training courses. Six of these courses, he directed himself during and after his term of office.
Fürst also aimed at preserving the Society as a meeting place of statisticians of all directions. Nevertheless, it was inevitable, that a personality like him who had played an important part in organizing the build-up of the German official statistics after the war and the system of national accounts, also left his mark on the activities of the Society. Apparently, he preferred topics from economics and business administration in the Annual Meetings which had a wide scope in substance and were often of a fundamental character. There were efforts, however, to take into consideration the increasing number of members from universities where at that time more and more chairs for statistics were established. Thus, the Annual Meeting of 1968 was devoted to mathematical-statistical methods and their applications.
With the election of Wolfgang Wetzel as Chairman of the Society in the year 1972, this orientation of statistics, which was especially cultivated at universities, obtained increasing importance. It is Wetzel's personal merit to have initiated and enforced this expansion of the spectrum of topics as well as a corresponding change in the structure of members without neglecting scientific and professional interests of practical statistics. Wetzel gave new impulses to the Society, above all, by foundation of a Section on "Empirical Economics and Applied Econometrics" and the introduction of the Pentecost Meetings, which very soon became an attractive forum for lectures and discussions of members coming from the academic field. The Annual Meetings, however, continued to be devoted to important statistical themes in the fields of economy and social issues.
With Wetzel a new phase has started in the history of the Society, since from that time onwards, each chairperson after his four-year term did not run for office a second time, but was mostly at disposal as a member of the Board. These persons were: Hildegard Bartels, Karl-August Schäffer, Heinz Grohmann, Siegfried Heiler, Joachim Frohn, Peter-Th. Wilrich, Reiner Stäglin. The constant change, which by now has become a rule, has brought the Society remarkable flexibility in its continuity. New ideas could be introduced and realized without instantly neglecting already established traditions. During that time the membership rose to over 800.
With the exception of Hildegard Bartels, from 1972 to 1979 President of the Federal Statistical Office, they all were or still are professors; Reiner Stäglin in addition working full time in an Institute for Economic Research. Within the Society's range of interests, this development considerably consolidated the importance of statistical theory and econometrics. On the other hand, it by no means diminished the significant role of official statistics, empirical economic research and statistics in business and administration. This is illustrated clearly by the themes of the Annual Meetings during that period which were often of great sociopolitical relevance. Theoretical statistics and econometrics are preferably being discussed in the sections in charge and during the Pentecost Meetings.
During the last decades there were a number of innovations and activities worth mentioning. The office was moved from the Federal Statistical Office to the branch office of the respective chairman and a computer assisted administration was introduced. An Information Brochure of the Society was presented for the first time, which is available at present in its 4th edition. A Section on "Technical Statistics" was newly founded, which later was extended to a Section on "Statistics in Natural Science and Technology", as well as a Section on "Methodology of Statistical Surveys", which thematically connects universities and official statistics to a high degree. An annual Young Researchers' Workshop was also established, with high- ranking lecturers as partners in discussion. Since 2000 the German Statistical Society represents itself in the internet.
Further activities lead to a "Resolution on Population Census" and a "Memorandum on the Development of Statistics at Universities in the New Länder and East Berlin" accompanied by a successful integration of statisticians working in that part of Germany into the Society. Since some years the German Association for Demography has also taken part in the Statistical Week. Further developed were also relations with statistical societies from abroad. In that context the Statistical Week took place in Vienna in 1994. Most recently the Society has been substantially engaged in getting the International Statistical Institute to hold its World Congress 2003 for the first time in Germany again, in Berlin, after a 100-year abstinence.
However, not everything passed off without controversial discussions during the last three decades - as it was also the case in former times. But one aim has been reached which - in a time of global scientific, economic as well as social change - can by no means be considered natural: members of all backgrounds - official statistics, universities, empirical economic and social research, business as well as administrative authorities - have come to perceive the Society as a forum prepared to serve their needs and interests. Even more: mutual understanding and mutual respect have grown considerably. However, it remains a distinctive fact, that mutual intellectual fertilization - which means an insight into the basic conditions and problems of practical statistics, concerning methodological research and the use of methodologies developed in research in economic and social statistical practice - will also be a task in the future.