Article ID: CBB308199000

Why Mathematical Probability Failed to Emerge from Ancient Gambling (2020)


The emergence of mathematical probability has something to do with dice games: all the early discussions (Cardano, Galileo, Pascal) suggest as much. Although this has long been recognized, the problem is that gambling at dice has been a popular pastime since antiquity. Why, then, did gamblers wait until the sixteenth century ce to calculate the math of dicing? Many theories have been offerred, but there may be a simple solution: early-modern gamblers played different sorts of dice games than in antiquity. While ancients diced at communal risk, early-moderns diced at individualized risk. These individual wager-games, for example, the game “hazard”, incentivized solving questions like “how likely is it to roll a triple-six?”. Before the early modern period there was no gambling game to which working out mathematical probability would have brought an advantage.

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Authors & Contributors
Bergmans, Luc
Koetsier, Teunis
Ineichen, Robert
Williams, B. Innes
Hall, A. Rupert
Nikulin, Dmitrii Vladimirovich
NTM: Zeitschrift für Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften, Technik und Medizin
Journal Electronique d'Histoire des Probabilités et de la Statistique
Perspectives on Science
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
Rana House
Palgrave Macmillan
Probability and statistics
Transmission of ideas
Descartes, René
Oresme, Nicole
Galvani, Luigi
Time Periods
Early modern
17th century

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