The theory that never died: How an eighteenth century mathematical idea transformed the twenty-first century

Sharon McGrayne


Bayes’s rule, a simple eighteenth century theory about assessing knowledge, was controversial during most of the twentieth century but used secretly by Great Britain and the United States during World War II and the Cold War. Palomares and Valencia played important roles in its development in those dark days. The rule is widely used today in the computerized world and in many applications. For instance, Bayes has become political shorthand for something different: for data-based decision-making. The Bayesian Revolution turned out to be a modern paradigm shift for a very pragmatic age.


Bayes rule; Fisher; frequentists; Laplace

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