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Chevalier de Mere



    The fortunes and misfortunes of a famous gambler, the Chevalier de Mere, were the origin of an algebraic approach to probability. A noted rake and bon vivant, the Chevalier had made his pile by always betting small favorable odds on getting at least one six in four tosses of a die, then lost it by always betting small odds on getting at least one double six in twenty-four double tosses.

    This theme was taken up by James Bernoulli (c. 1712) and later mathematical writers who turned their interest to probability, primarily on behalf of the new insurance industry. "Il est tres bon ésprit," wrote Pascal to Fermat about the Chevalier, "mais quel dommage, il n'est pas geometre." ["He's a fun guy but, alas, no mathemetician."]


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