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The Reverend Thomas Bayes

Reverend Thomas Bayes

During the 1700’s, the Reverend Thomas Bayes was a nonconformist minister at the Mount Sion Chapel in Tunbridge Wells, UK, about 40 miles southeast of central London.  Having studied both theology and logic at the University of Edinburgh, he was also a mathematician and developed a strong interest in probability late in life. He was known to have published only one book on theology and one book on mathematics in his lifetime. A third manuscript he never published about the probability of cause made him famous. After his death, a good friend Richard Price recognized the importance of the paper and, after extensive editing, submitted it for publication. More than 20 years later, the great French mathematician, Pierre-Simon Laplace devised the formula for Bayes’ probability of causes and acknowledged Bayes as the discoverer of what we now know as Bayesian inference

This year is the 250th anniversary of Bayesian inference. During its history, the Bayes theory has been doubted, disproven, defended, and challenged again and again and again.  It has consistently been an important tool in understanding what we really know, given the evidence and other information we have. It helps incorporate "conditional probabilities" into our conclusions. 

Bayesian inference has recently become prominent in many scientific...

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