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Mathematical Treasure: De Moivre's Doctrine of Chances

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University)

Abraham De Moivre (1667–1754) is considered a pioneer in the development of the theory of probability. The title page of his classic work on the subject, The Doctrine of Chances, is shown above. The first edition appeared in 1711 and was written in Latin. The fourth edition, published in 1756, was written in English. In this volume, we find the first formal statement of the normal distribution. In its time, this book was particularly popular with gamblers.

In Problem 35, De Moivre considered a compound probability situation.

The Special Collections staff at the Linderman Library of Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, is pleased to cooperate with the Mathematical Association of America to exhibit this and other items from the Library’s holdings in Mathematical Treasures. In particular, Convergence would like to thank Lois Fischer Black, Curator, Special Collections, and Ilhan Citak, Archives and Special Collections Librarian, for their kind assistance in helping to make this display possible. You may use these images in your classroom; all other uses require permission from the Special Collections staff, Linderman Library, Lehigh University.

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University), "Mathematical Treasure: De Moivre's Doctrine of Chances," Convergence (June 2014)