The Nature and Laws of Chance.
Simpson, Thomas.

London: 1740. First edition. Some light browning, as usual. Faint ink signature on title. A good, clean copy of Simpson's very scarce second book. Contemporary calf, sturdily rebacked, new endpapers. (Item ID: 10948)


With the publication of this book, Thomas Simpson (1710-1761) took on one of the leading mathematicians of his day, Abraham de Moivre (1667-1754). The second, significantly expanded version of de Moivre's Doctrine of Chances had appeared in 1738. In The Nature and Laws of Chance Simpson wrote approvingly of De Moivre, but claimed to have investigated two problems in probability for which the latter had given only the results. This sparked a feud between the two mathematicians, which was intensified by Simpson's publication of Annuities and Reversions (1742), which suggested some improvements on De Moivre's Annuities on Lives (1728). De Moivre accused Simpson of borrowing from De Moivre's own mathematical work, a charge which was answered by De Moivre in an appendix to Annuities and Revisions. The controversy over Simpson's originality has remained an issue into modern times, with De Morgan quite admiring and Pearson (History of Statistics in the 17th and 18th Centuries) much less so, although acknowledging Simpson's contributions as a writer of mathematical texts and an eponymous originator of formulae in trigonometry and astronomy.

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