A classic of science, this famous essay by "the Newton of France" introduces lay readers to the concepts and uses of probability theory. It is of especial interest today as an application of mathematical techniques to problems in social and biological sciences.
Generally recognized as the founder of the modern phase of probability theory, Laplace here applies the principles and general results of his theory "to the most important questions of life, which are, in effect, for the most part, problems in probability." Thus, without the use of higher mathematics, he demonstrates the application of probability to games of chance, physics, reliability. of witnesses, astronomy, insurance, democratic government and many other areas.
General readers will find it an exhilarating experience to follow Laplace's nontechnical application of mathematical techniques to the appraisal, solution and/or prediction of the outcome of many types of problems. Skilled mathematicians, too, will enjoy and benefit from seeing how one of the immortals of science expressed so many complex ideas in such simple terms.
Pierre-Simon Laplace (1749-1827) is remembered amoung probabilitists today particularly for his "Theorie analytique des probabilites", published in 1812. The "Essai philosophique dur les probabilites" is his introduction for the second edition of this work. Here Laplace provided a popular exposition on his "Theorie". The "Essai", based on a lecture on probability given by Laplace in 1794, underwent sweeping changes, almost doubling in size, in the various editions published during Laplace's lifetime. Translations of various editions in different languages have apeared over the years. The only English translation of 1902 reads awkwardly today. This is a thorough and modern translation based on the recent re-issue, with its voluminous notes, of the fifth edition of 1826, with preface by Rene Thom and postscript by Bernard Bru. In the second part of the book, the reader is provided with an extensive commentary by the translator including valuable histographical and mathematical remarks and various proofs.