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The Theory That Would Not Die: How Bayes' Rule Cracked the Enigma Code, Hunted Down Russian Submarines, and Emerged Triumphant from Two Centuries of Controversy Hardcover – May 17, 2011

4.2 out of 5 stars 224 ratings

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  • The Theory That Would Not Die: How Bayes' Rule Cracked the Enigma Code, Hunted Down Russian Submarines, and Emerged Triumphant from Two Centuries of Controversy
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Editorial Reviews


"If you're not thinking like a Bayesian, perhaps you should be."—John Allen Paulos, New York Times Book Review
(John Allen Paulos New York Times Book Review)

"A masterfully researched tale of human struggle and accomplishment . . . . Renders perplexing mathematical debates digestible and vivid for even the most lay of audiences."—Michael Washburn, Boston Globe
(Michael Washburn Boston Globe)

“Well known in statistical circles, Bayes’s Theorem was first given in a posthumous paper by the English clergyman Thomas Bayes in the mid-eighteenth century. McGrayne provides a fascinating account of the modern use of this result in matters as diverse as cryptography, assurance, the investigation of the connection between smoking and cancer, RAND, the identification of the author of certain papers in The Federalist, election forecasting and the search for a missing H-bomb. The general reader will enjoy her easy style and the way in which she has successfully illustrated the use of a result of prime importance in scientific work.”— Andrew I. Dale, author of A History of Inverse Probability From Thomas Bayes to Karl Pearson and Most Honorable Remembrance: The Life and Work of Thomas Bayes

(Andrew I. Dale 2010-08-19)

“Compelling, fast-paced reading full of lively characters and anecdotes. . . .A great story.” —Robert E. Kass, Carnegie Mellon University

(Robert E. Kass)

"Makes the theory come alive. . .enjoyable. . .densely packed and engaging, . . .very accessible. . .an admirable job of giving a voice to the scores of famous and non-famous people and data who contributed, for good or for worse."—Significance Magazine
(Significance Magazine)

"A very compelling documented account. . .very interesting reading."—Jose Bernardo, Valencia List Blog
(Jose Bernardo Valencia List Blog)

"To have crafted a page-turner out of the history of statistics is an impressive feat. If only lectures at university had been this racy."—New Scientist
(New Scientist)

The Theory That Would Not Die is an impressively researched, rollicking tale of the triumph of a powerful mathematical tool.”—Andrew Robinson, Nature Vol. 475
(Andrew Robinson Nature Vol. 475 2011-07-28)

"A lively, engaging historical account...McGrayne describes actuarial, business, and military uses of the Bayesian approach, including its application to settle the disputed authorship of 12 of the Federalist Papers, and its use to connect cigarette smoking and lung cancer...All of this is accomplished through compelling, fast-moving prose...The reader cannot help but enjoy learning about some of the more gossipy episodes and outsized personalities."—Choice

“McGrayne is such a good writer that she makes this obscure battle gripping for the general reader.”—Engineering and Technology Magazine
(Engineering and Technology Magazine)

About the Author

Sharon Bertsch McGrayne is the author of numerous books, including Nobel Prize Women in Science: Their Lives, Struggles, and Momentous Discoveries and Prometheans in the Lab: Chemistry and the Making of the Modern World. She lives in Seattle.

Product details

  • Item Weight : 1.39 pounds
  • Hardcover : 336 pages
  • ISBN-13 : 978-0300169690
  • ISBN-10 : 0300169698
  • Publisher : Yale University Press; American First Edition (May 17, 2011)
  • Product Dimensions : 6.13 x 1.13 x 9.25 inches
  • Language: : English
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.2 out of 5 stars 224 ratings