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Jakob Bernoulli's Theory of Inference


This review of Ars Conjectandi, written on the eve of its 300th anniversary, discusses an aspect of Bernoulli’s magnum opus which hitherto has not received the attention it merits. Bernoulli envisioned a theory for the advancement of science based on the idea of pairing empirical evidence with the then-novel concept of probability. This theory of inference, which he termed “ars conjectandi”, was intended to complement the predominant axiomatic-deductive method where the latter could not be applied successfully. In the 300 years since its publication, Bernoulli’s idea went through ups and downs, but eventually ended up as the defining characteristic of statistical science and a cornerstone of modern science. This review discusses the historical context from which Bernoulli’s idea was conceived, his sources of inspiration, and provides a detailed account of his theory of inference.

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