Abstract:

Statistical methods seem to us natural and selfevident scientific tools. But would modern statistics have emerged if not for the critical insights of a few geniuses throughout history? This is a fascinating question. A plausible argument can be made that the most pivotal figure was Abraham DeMoivre (16671754). His seminal intellectual contributions began around 1710, at a time when probability and statistics, as we have come to understand these terms, were nonexistent. By the end of his long career, DeMoivre had formulated the basic concepts that underlie modern statistical theory and applications. These include, most notably, our very notion of probability, the normal distribution, and the relationship between probability and empirical data. Without these seminal contributions, it is unclear how, and even whether, the discipline of statistics would have evolved.
