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John Venn

was born in Hull, England, in the 1870s, and for many years he taught the elementary logic
course. Partly in this connection, Venn wrote influential textbooks. The first one, entitled The
Logic of Chance and dealing with probability theory, appeared in three editions between 1866
and 1888. He rehearsed many features and practical applications of the theory, such as
insurance, gambling and the appraisal of testimony, although he deliberately eschewed most
mathematical details. he adopted a frequentist interpretation of probability, regarding as
visciously circular the assumption that we know which causes pertain to the effect under study;
only long runs could make them manifest in the first place. Thus he rejected the view that
statistical regularities could be explained by causal mechanisms. Venn saw probability theory as
a branch or offshoot of logic; for example in `modality' where propositions such as `it is probable
that all is ' is used in reasoning. He expanded his lecture course on logic in his book Symbolic
Logic (1888, 1894) (the origin of that phrase, incidentally). He largely followed Boole's ideas on
the algebra of logic, with modifications to the interpretation of some notations. His adherance to
Boole made him rather pass in the development of algebraic logic (for example, he did not
appreciate the innovation of a logic of relations by De Morgan) but his book remains a rich and
valuable source of information. One of its virtues are the many historical references, for which he
drew on his own extensive library (now kept in the Cambridge University Library).
Richard von MISES
Von Mises was principally known for his work on the foundations of probability and
statistics (randomness) which was rehabilitated in the 1960s. He founded a school of
applied mathematics in Berlin and wrote the first text book on philosophical positivism in
1939. He became director of the new Institute for Applied Mathematics at the University of
Berlin in 1920. Almost all papers by von Mises on probability and statistics are from the
second part of his career. At the time of von Mises' two seminal papers "Fundamental
Theorems of Probability" and "The Foundations of Probability" in the Mathematische
Zeitschrift of 1919 [Von Mises, Selecta II] the conceptual foundations of probability were
still obscure. Von Mises' was unsatisfied with the ``classical" definition of probability by
Von Mises' concept of a collective, the definition of mathematical probability as the limit of
a frequency ratio, and the two fundamental postulates, requiring the existence of the
limiting values of the relevant frequencies, and their invariance under any place selection
independent from the outcomes of the events, were soon to become familiar to all
In his ``Foundations" he urged that ``probability is a science of the same kind as
geometry and theoretical mechanics ... which aims to reproduce observable phenomena
not just as a reproduction of reality but rather as its abstraction and idealization.
Pierre de Fermat
is known as one of the co-founders of present day probability theory. He is most
commonly known as a mathematician and a French number theorist. On August 20, 1601,
he was born in Beaumont-de-Lomagne to his father Dominique, a consul of Beaumont-deLomagne and a leather merchant, and to his mother, Claire de Long. He had one brother
and two sisters (Young, 1998)