I had not heard of R until very recently when I was asked to set up the server interface to R on a box. Apparently a bunch of math dudes thought they were too smart for bc and wrote R
Read it here
Lots of parts of R seem like a reinvention of the wheel. R has its own packaging system, like CPAN, called CRAN. Its a little frustrating to have cran, cpan, gem, and all these different different methods to install libraries. Im glad debian is still taking to packaging them up in debs.
I had to rebuild the R packages from sid on etch as the binary packages were built against a newer version of libc. I did this by adding a deb-src line for sid to sources.list: