I recently boldly claimed in front of a group of fairly smart eighth grade students that astronomy contributed greatly to the foundations of statistics and many statistical concepts were invented for use in astronomy. However, looking to back that up, I was fairly disappointed. Errors, the mean and the median deviation from the mean may have been first observed in astronomy. However, even the concept of error propagation might stem more from classical mechanics than astronomy. Beyond these concepts, I was unable to find much more. Feigelson writes (http://arxiv.org/pdf/astro-ph/0401404.pdf):
Ptolemy estimated parameters of a non-linear cosmological model using a minimax goodness-of-fit method. Al-Biruni discussed the dangers of propagating errors from inaccurate instruments and inattentive observers. While some Medieval scholars advised against the acquisition of repeated measurements, fearing that errors would compound rather than compensate for each other, the usefulnes of the mean to increase precision was demonstrated with great success by Tycho Brahe.
Can you suggest good references that have some more details on the historical links between astronomy and statistics?
Thank you for the excellent answers!