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Classical Probability in the Enlightenment
Lorraine Daston

Winner of the 1989 Pfizer Most Outstanding Book Award of the History of Science Society

Paperback | 1995 | $75.00 | £62.95 | ISBN: 9780691006444
451 pp. | 7 3/4 x 10 | 3 figures
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What did it mean to be reasonable in the Age of Reason? Classical probabilists from Jakob Bernouli through Pierre Simon Laplace intended their theory as an answer to this question--as "nothing more at bottom than good sense reduced to a calculus," in Laplace's words. In terms that can be easily grasped by nonmathematicians, Lorraine Daston demonstrates how this view profoundly shaped the internal development of probability theory and defined its applications.


"The reader feels like a twentieth-century observer set down to eavesdrop on erudite philosophical arguments on miracles and the problem of induction, and thence to wander through the streets of Europe observing lotteries, peeping inside assurance offices, and finally perhaps to witness a murderer fleeing the scene of his crime. . . . Although the Age of Reason may have turned out to be a disappointment to the probabilists of that age, Daston has provided us with an excellent history of their ideas."--Mary S. Morgan, The Times Higher Education Supplement

"This book presents a comprehensive, insightful survey of the history of probability, both in terms of its scientific and its social uses. . . . It represents a substantial contribution not only to the history of probability but also to our understanding of the Enlightenment in general."--Joseph W. Dauben, American Scientist

"Daston's book is great fun to read because of its variety of well-chosen topics, thoughtfully interpreted and presented in wonderfully rich language. She . . . displays an impressive independence from conventional approaches to [the history of probability]."--Ivo Schneider, American Historical Review

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Hardcover published in 1988

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