Person: Bayes, Thomas
Thomas Bayes was an English clergyman who set out his theory of probability in 1764. His conclusions were accepted by Laplace in 1781, rediscovered by Condorcet, and remained unchallenged until Boole questioned them. Since then Bayes' techniques have been subject to controversy.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- In that case it is likely that he attended Fund Academy in Tenter Alley which was the only school with the right religious connections near where Bayes lived.
- We do know that in 1719 Bayes matriculated at the University of Edinburgh where he studied logic and theology.
- At some time Bayes must have studied mathematics but there is no evidence that he did so at Edinburgh University.
- It appears that Thomas Bayes left Tunbridge Wells in 1728 and returned in 1731.
- Bayes apparently tried to retire from the ministry in 1749 but remained minister at Tunbridge Wells until 1752 when he did retire, but continued to live in Tunbridge Wells.
- Bayes set out his theory of probability in Essay towards solving a problem in the doctrine of chances published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London in 1764.
- As regards probability, he will expect, of course, some or other version of what has become known as 'Bayes's theorem': and such expectation will indeed be met.
- We note too the use of approximations to various integrals made here and in the Supplement by both Bayes and Price, and the attention paid to the question of the error incurred in the making of such approximation.
- The Essay, then, mainly, and perhaps justly, remembered for the solution of the problem posed by Bayes, should also be remembered for its contribution to pure mathematics.
- Bayes's conclusions were accepted by Laplace in a 1781 memoir, rediscovered by Condorcet (as Laplace mentions), and remained unchallenged until Boole questioned them in the Laws of Thought .
- Since then Bayes' techniques have been subject to controversy.
- Bayes also wrote an article An Introduction to the Doctrine of Fluxions, and a Defence of the Mathematicians Against the Objections of the Author of The Analyst (1736) attacking Berkeley for his attack on the logical foundations of the calculus.
- Bayes was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1742 despite the fact that at that time he had no published works on mathematics, indeed none were published in his lifetime under his own name, the article on fluxions referred to above was published anonymously.
- There are a few other pieces of mathematics which have come down to us from Bayes and we now look at some of these.
- There are also sections on natural philosophy in which Bayes looks at topics which include electricity, optics and celestial mechanics.
Born 1702, London, England. Died 17 April 1761, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England.
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Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive