The great historian of science I.B. Cohen explores how numbers have come to assume a leading role in science, in the operations and structure of government, in marketing and in many other aspects of daily life. Consulting and collecting numbers has been a feature of human affairs since antiquity - for example, in taxes or head counts for military service - but not until the Scientific Revolution in the twelfth century did social numbers such as births, deaths and marriages begin to be analysed. Cohen shines a new light on familiar figures such as Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Carlyle and Charles Dickens; and he reveals Florence Nightingale to be a passionate statistician. Cohen has left us with an engaging and accessible history of numbers, an appreciation of the essential nature of statistics.