Starred Review. Prior to the development of statistics in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, even rationalists were convinced that no human could speculate on the future. Devlin, NPR's "Math Guy" and the author of numerous books on the subject, shows us how that belief was transformed through the 1654 correspondence between mathematicians Blaise Pascal and Pierre de Fermat. Devlin uses the critical letter from Pascal to Fermat in which he discusses "the problem of points"-that is, how to determine the probable outcome of a game of chance-as a framework for a history of probability theory and risk management, fields which now dominate our social, political and financial lives. Devlin interweaves the specific issues discussed in that famous letter with the work of other mathematicians, like the London businessman John Graunt, whose ingenious, groundbreaking work analyzing London parish death records helped predict a breakout of bubonic plague and essentially founded the science of epidemiology. Devlin also introduces the remarkable Bernoulli family, eight of whom were distinguished mathematicians, and the Reverend Thomas Bayes, whose formula has enabled the calculation of risk in a variety of fields. This informative book is a lively, quick read for anyone who wonders about the science of predicting what's next and how deeply it affects our lives.
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"This informative book is a lively, quick read for anyone who wonders about the science of predicting what's next and how deeply it affects our lives."
"This breezy book shows why probability theory, though not Pascal and Fermat's last, was undoubtedly their most important theorem."
"Mr. Devlin shares the great mathematicians' correspondence, walks readers through critical mathematical problems and contextualizes it all in a lively narrative. The book is a refreshing testimony to the rewards of thinking rationally about how future events might unfold.... [A] rewarding read.... Mr. Devlin does a remarkable job of showing just how much derived from the history-changing Pascal-Fermat correspondence."
"This book is not only about mathematics. It is also a tale of how mathematics, and science in general, is really done.... Very well written and accessible to everyone.... This is highly recommended reading.... [It] should find a place in every mathematician's library."
"Devlin depicts Fermat as leading Pascal toward correct understanding of probability's underlying logic, through quotation of the entire letter and a characteristically clear explanation of the logic of probability with which Pascal struggled. A rewarding account for math buffs."
David Berlinski, author of "The Devil's Delusion" and "A Tour of the Calculus"
"I've been a faithful reader of Keith Devlin's work for a long time, and this is the best thing I've seen from his pen. It combines a lightness of touch, an understanding of the sources, an absence of anysort of intrusive self, and a sensitive and error-free presentation of the mathematics."
William Dunham, author of "The Calculus Gallery" and "Journey Through Genius"
"Keith Devlin's delightful little book traces the origins of probability theory and introduces the mathematicians--from Pascal and Fermat to Bernoulli and de Moivre--who created it."
Amir Aczel, author of "Fermat's Last Theorem" and "Chance"
"In this enchanting romp through the early history of probability theory, Devlin does a great job explaining the role probability plays in modern life, and shows how probabilistic reasoning, which we almost take for granted today, was a product of the minds of brilliant mathematicians almost four centuries ago."
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"Surprisingly engaging." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
The unfinished game tells the story of the development of probability theory. From its early beginnings, on to Gaussian distribution and Bayes theorem all the way up to its central... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Lars Tackmann
This book reports a well conducted research on the origins of probability theory. In plain language the author lead the reader to discovering both historical and technical details... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Ricardo Mansilla
This book was by no means exciting, but it was moderately interesting. I think this is one in which the reader will have to be sufficiently interested in reading beforehand,... Read morePublished 23 months ago by David Milliern
Anything by Keith Devlin is perfect. If you want a really grand weekend, buy several of his books, turn off your cellphone, lock yourself away from the world with a pot of coffee... Read morePublished on August 9, 2013 by Janet Gallin
It is fascinating to consider what an in depth discussion of chance was like prior to the currently known concepts of probability. Read morePublished on August 26, 2010 by TW
A fun book for those interested in Game Theory. While not a book for everyone, this one presents a good description of one aspect of this field of mathematics, and is actually so... Read morePublished on July 31, 2010 by George F. Greenwald
One of the reviewers said that the Kindle version of this book was hard to read. However, I had no problems at all with the Kindle version. I also really enjoyed the book. Read morePublished on January 3, 2010 by R. Hunt