I'm just very curious about the discovery process behind the autocorrelation function.

  • When was it invented?
  • Was it independently invented multiple times, for example?
  • What was the motivation for it?
  • $\begingroup$ Can't answer the first two, but autocorrelation is heavily used in electronic "signal processing", to help extract data from a noisy signal, etc. I'm guessing that the SETI folks use it a lot. $\endgroup$ Jul 14, 2011 at 10:36

1 Answer 1


The earliest reference for autocorrelation that I can find relates to Udney Yule, a British Statistician who among other notable accomplishments developed the Yule-Walker procedure to approximate the Partial Auto-correlation Function using the Auto-correlation Function. Pearson might have been involved. Pearson as a side note was not very good at forecasting ! He predicted that Galton, rather than Charles Darwin, would be remembered as the most prodigious grandson of Erasmus Darwin.


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