Timeline of probability and statistics

The following is a timeline of probability and statistics.

Before 1600

  • 4th Century B.C. [see Raju K.C. http://www.ckraju.net/papers/Probability-in-Ancient-India.pdf] The text by Raju reads "The earliest known written account relating to permutations and combinations actually comes from even be-fore Pi ̃ngala, and is found in the −4th C. JainBhagwat ̄ıS ̄utra. Permutations were called vikalpa-ganita (the calculus of alternatives), and combinations bhanga". This work of Raju brings forth a complete list of documents and workers in India who deliberated on the probability.
  • 8th century – Al-Khalil, an Arab mathematician studying cryptology, wrote the Book of Cryptographic Messages. The work has been lost, but based on the reports of later authors, it contained the first use of permutations and combinations to list all possible Arabic words with and without vowels.[1]
  • 9th century - Al-Kindi was the first to use frequency analysis to decipher encrypted messages and developed the first code breaking algorithm. He wrote a book entitled Manuscript on Deciphering Cryptographic Messages, containing detailed discussions on statistics and cryptanalysis.[2][3][4] Al-Kindi also made the earliest known use of statistical inference.[1]
  • 13th century – An important contribution of Ibn Adlan was on sample size for use of frequency analysis.[1]
  • 13th century – the first known calculation of the probability for throwing 3 dices is published in the Latin poem De vetula.
  • 1560s (published 1663) – Cardano's Liber de ludo aleae attempts to calculate probabilities of dice throws. He demonstrates the efficacy of defining odds as the ratio of favourable to unfavourable outcomes (which implies that the probability of an event is given by the ratio of favourable outcomes to the total number of possible outcomes [5]).
  • 1577 – Bartolomé de Medina defends probabilism, the view that in ethics one may follow a probable opinion even if the opposite is more probable

17th century

  • 1654 – Pascal and Fermat create the mathematical theory of probability,
  • 1657 – Huygens's De ratiociniis in ludo aleae is the first book on mathematical probability,
  • 1662 – Graunt's Natural and Political Observations Made upon the Bills of Mortality makes inferences from statistical data on deaths in London,
  • 1666 – In Le Journal des Sçavans xxxi, 2 August 1666 (359–370(=364)) appears a review of the third edition (1665) of John Graunt's Observations on the Bills of Mortality. This review gives a summary of 'plusieurs reflexions curieuses', of which the second are Graunt's data on life expectancy. This review is used by Nicolaus Bernoulli in his De Usu Artis Conjectandi in Jure (1709).
  • 1669 – Christiaan Huygens and his brother Lodewijk discuss between August and December that year Graunts mortality table (Graunt 1662, p. 62) in letters #1755
  • 1693 – Halley prepares the first mortality tables statistically relating death rate to age,

18th century

19th century

20th century

See also


  1. Broemeling, Lyle D. (1 November 2011). "An Account of Early Statistical Inference in Arab Cryptology". The American Statistician. 65 (4): 255–257. doi:10.1198/tas.2011.10191.
  2. Singh, Simon (2000). The code book : the science of secrecy from ancient Egypt to quantum cryptography (1st Anchor Books ed.). New York: Anchor Books. ISBN 0-385-49532-3.
  3. Singh, Simon (2000). The code book : the science of secrecy from ancient Egypt to quantum cryptography (1st Anchor Books ed.). New York: Anchor Books. ISBN 978-0-385-49532-5.
  4. Ibrahim A. Al-Kadi "The origins of cryptology: The Arab contributions", Cryptologia, 16(2) (April 1992) pp. 97–126.
  5. Some laws and problems in classical probability and how Cardano anticipated them Gorrochum, P. Chance magazine 2012
  6. Wright, Sewall (1921). "Correlation and causation". Journal of Agricultural Research. 20 (7): 557–585.

Further reading