The Doctrine of Chances, by Abraham de Moivre, is frequently considered the first textbook on probability theory. Its subject matter is suggested by the book's subtitle, namely, A Method of Calculating the Probabilities of Events in Play. Here “play” signifies games involving dice, playing cards, lottery draws, and so forth, and the “events” are specific outcomes, such as throwing exactly one ace in four throws.

De Moivre was a French Protestant who escaped religious persecution by emigrating to London. There he associated with some of the leading English scientists of the day, including Edmund Halley and Isaac Newton (to whom The Doctrine of Chances was dedicated). At age 30 de Moivre was elected to the Royal Society and much later was similarly honored by scientific academies ...

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