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A Short History of Probability
From
Calculus, Volume II
by
Tom M. Apostol
(2
nd
edition, John Wiley & Sons, 1969 ):
"A gambler's dispute in 1654 led to the creation of a mathematical theory of probability by two famous
French mathematicians, Blaise Pascal and Pierre de Fermat. Antoine Gombaud, Chevalier de Méré, a
French nobleman with an interest in gaming and gambling questions, called Pascal's attention to an
apparent contradiction concerning a popular dice game. The game consisted in throwing a pair of dice
24 times; the problem was to decide whether or not to bet even money on the occurrence of at least one
"double six" during the 24 throws. A seemingly wellestablished gambling rule led de Méré to believe
that betting on a double six in 24 throws would be profitable, but his own calculations indicated just
the opposite.
This problem and others posed by de Méré led to an exchange of letters between Pascal and Fermat in
which the fundamental principles of probability theory were formulated for the first time. Although a
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This note was uploaded on 07/28/2011 for the course STA 2014 taught by Professor Staff during the Fall '10 term at University of Florida.
 Fall '10
 Staff
 Statistics, Probability

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