Thomas Bayes

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Thomas Bayes (pronounced: ˈbeɪz) (c. 1702 – 17 April 1761) was an English mathematician and Presbyterian minister, known for having formulated a specific case of the theorem that bears his name: Bayes' theorem, which was published after his death.

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Biography

Thomas Bayes was the son of London Presbyterian minister Joshua Bayes [2] and perhaps born in Hertfordshire.[3] In 1719 he enrolled at the University of Edinburgh to study logic and theology. On his return around 1722 he assisted his father at the latter's non-conformist chapel in London before moving to Tunbridge Wells, Kent around 1734. There he became minister of the Mount Sion chapel until 1752.[4]

He is known to have published two works in his lifetime, one theological and one mathematical:

It is speculated that Bayes was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1742 [5] on the strength of the Introduction to the Doctrine of Fluxions, as he is not known to have published any other mathematical works during his lifetime.

In his later years he took a deep interest in probability. Stephen Stigler feels that he became interested in the subject while reviewing a work written in 1755 by Thomas Simpson,[6] but George Alfred Barnard thinks he learned mathematics and probability from a book by de Moivre.[7] His work and findings on probability theory were passed in manuscript form to his friend Richard Price after his death.

By 1755 he was ill and in 1761 had died in Tunbridge. He was buried in Bunhill Fields Cemetery in Moorgate, London where many Nonconformists lie.

Bayes' theorem

Bayes' solution to a problem of "inverse probability" was presented in the Essay Towards Solving a Problem in the Doctrine of Chances (read after Bayes's death by Richard Price to the Royal Society in 1763, then published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London the following year [8]). This essay contains a statement of a special case of Bayes' theorem.

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