With these pages I plan to make available a broad range of material related to the history of probability and statistics. This will include principally a selection of original sources in English translation. The reader may rightly assume, unless another person should be credited, that I am responsible for any errors of mistranslation or transcription.

I have endeavored to ensure that texts have been reproduced accurately. The translations have not been rendered into polished English because they are meant to reflect as best as I am capable the sense and language of the authors. However, I believe the English to be readable. Be aware that the sources available are sometimes very difficult to read so that errors can arise simply because characters of text cannot be discerned clearly.

Whenever possible, the original notation of the authors has been retained. However, I have at times relied on the collected works of an individual. It should be noted that editors of collected works have sometimes changed the notation from that which was used in the first publication. It has been necessary, but only rarely, to actually alter notation and this has occurred chiefly when the character used is not available. 

These documents may be freely copied for use by educators and educational institutions as long as proper credit is given and they remain unaltered. This site may neither be mirrored nor these files reposted. Comments and corrections are welcome. 

Note that the Todhunter's framework has been adopted through Laplace. Beyond that time, what appears is dictated by my interests. 

Since several research libraries have been digitized, it is possible to locate scanned images of journals and books. Links will be provided to them under two particular circumstances: (1) If the paper or text is in English. (2) If the work is in another language and I have no interest other than citing it.

Richard J. Pulskamp. 

email pulskamp"at"xavier.edu

It is likely that these pages will be in a permanent state of construction.

Several histories now in the public domain are these:


The outline of Todhunter

Althought Todhunter is fairly complete, there are some omissions. Those found have been imbedded as appropriate in these pages.
  1. Gambling & Probability in Classical Times
  2. Gambling & Probability in Post-classical Times
  3. The Problem of Points
  4. Blaise Pascal and Pierre Fermat
  5. Christiaan Huygens
  6. Combinations
  7. Mortality & Life Insurance
  8. Miscellaneous Investigations to 1700
  9. Pierre de Montmort
  10. Abraham de Moivre
  11. The Bernoulli Family: Jakob Bernoulli, Johann I Bernoulli, Nicolas I Bernoulli, Daniel Bernoulli & Johann III Bernoulli
    Nikolaus I Bernoulli is the author of the dissertation De usu artis conjectandi in jure
  12. Miscellaneous Investigations between 1700 and 1750
  13. Leonhard Euler wrote a number of papers on probability and what we now call statistics. Here are found translations of the majority of his works. I have also endeavored to give a fairly complete collection of ancillary papers up to the time of Laplace. Several gaps are yet evident.
  14. Jean D'Alembert is often maligned for his errors in discussing probability. Here I have placed translations of all of his writings on probability. He also penned a number of memoirs of a statistical nature on the subject of inoculation for the smallpox. These remain to be done.
  15. Thomas Bayes  
  16. Joseph Lagrange  
  17. Miscellaneous Investigations from 1750 to 1780
  18. Marquis de Condorcet  
  19. Jean Trembley  
  20. Miscellaneous Investigations from 1780 to 1800
  21. Laplace  (Updated through  TAP. )
Supplement: Fitting equations to data prior to 1805. Many, but not all, of the works included here are mentioned above. This collects together all identified by Merriman in his list of writings on least squares up to, but not including Legendre.

The Nineteenth Century

The Royal Society of London produced for the period 1800 to 1900 a Catalog of Scientific Papers organized by subject. Volume 1 lists pure mathematical papers. Those in probability (Classification 1630) are further subdivided into the Theory of Errors including Least Squares Method and Probabilities including Problems.  Statistics (Classification 1635) includes Actuarial Mathematics with subdivisions of Mortality and Population.

The lists of publications has been generated from the Catalog of Scientific Papers and the lists constructed by Merriman and Harter for publications related to least squares. In addition, Stigler's The History of Statistics, Hald's A History of Probability and Statistics and their Applications before 1750 and A History of Mathematical Statistics from 1750 to 1930, and Fischer's A History of the Central Limit Theorem have been consulted to supplement the bibliography. There is a large actuarial literature for the most part not included. Note that the date of reading and the date of publication are frequently many years apart.

This period is marked especially by the efforts devoted to the theory of errors and the method of least squares. Manfield Merriman in his A List of writings relating to the Method of Least Squares has supplied a list of 408 titles related to it carried from 1722 to 1874.  Leon Harter in "The Method of Least Squares and some Alternatives: Part I," International Statistical Review Vol. 42, No. 2 (1974) pp. 147-174 extended this to 1884. Comments on particular papers are taken from Merriman.


The thirteen "proofs" of the Method of Least Squares: These are given in the order provided by Merriman. 


1801 - 1830

This period is marked by the publication of  Laplace's Théorie Analytique des Probabilités in 1812 and followed shortly thereafter with the Essai Philosophique sur les probabilités in 1814. 

Several of those who are more important than others are given separate listings of papers. Namely,

See also Cauchy below for early papers.


1831 - 1850
 

Several of those who are more important than others are given separate listings of papers. Namely,


1851 - 1865

The papers of George Boole are separated from the others in this period.

 

1866 - 1875

 

 

1876 - 1885

 

 

1886 - 1890

 

1891 - 1895

 

 

1896 - 1900