Thomas Bayes

Who was the Reverend Thomas Bayes?


Thomas Bayes

The following is quoted from the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Bayes, Thomas (b. 1702, London - d. 1761, Tunbridge Wells,
Kent), mathematician who first used probability inductively and established a
mathematical basis for probability inference (a means of calculating, from the
number of times an event has not occured, the probability that it will occur
in future trials).

He set down his findings on probability in "Essay Towards Solving a Problem
in the Doctrine of Chances" (1763), published posthumously in the
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London.

The only works he is known to have published in his lifetime are Divine
Benevolence, or an Attempt to Prove That the Principal End of the Divine
Providence and Government is the Happiness of His Creatures
(1731) and
An Introduction to the Doctrine of Fluxions, and a Defence of the
Mathematicians Against the Objections of the Author of the Analyst
(1736)
which countered attacks by Bishop Berkeley on the logical foundations of
Newton's calculus.

Here is some more information about Bayes
taken from the book The Official Guide to Bunhill Fields. Bunhill
Fields is a park in London, England where Bayes is buried (see The Burial Place
of Bayes below).

He was a Presbyterian minister in Tunbridge Wells from 1731, son
of the Rev. Joshua Bayes, a Nonconformist minister. It is thought that his
election to the Royal Society might have been based on a tract of 1736 in
which Bayes defended the views and philosophy of Sir Isaac Newton. A notebook
of his exists, and includes a method of finding the time and place of
conjunction of two planets, notes on weights and measures, a method of
differentiation, and logarithms.

Thomas Bayes' contributions are immortalized by naming a fundamental
proposition in probability, called Bayes Rule, after him.

The Burial Place of Bayes

Bayes is buried in Bunhill Fields in the heart of the City of London. The
cemetery was used for the burial of nonconformists in the 18th century, but
is now a public park maintained by the Corporation of London. Also buried in
Bunhill Fields is Bayes's friend Richard Price, a pioneer of insurance, who
presented Bayes's famous paper on probability to the Royal Society in 1763,
two years after Bayes's death. Across the City Road from Bunhill Fields is
Wesley's Chapel, which has been restored in recent years.

The pictures below show Bayes's tomb with a variety of inscriptions. It was a
family vault in which are laid several members of the Bayes, Cotton and West
families. On the top of the tomb is an inscription saying how the tomb was
restored in 1969, through public subscription from statisticians worldwide."
These photos were taken by Professor Tony O'Hagan of Sheffield University who
also also provided the information about the burial place.

The tomb was repaired and conserved again in 2006, in a project organised
by the City of London Surveyor's Department, and funded by BEST (Bayesian
Efficient Strategic Trading) LLC of Hoboken, NJ, after an introduction by
ISBA. This work is described in a report from the
City Surveyor, with interesting background detail about the burial ground and
its ongoing restoration. ISBA maintains a fund, replenished by member
donations, to be put towards continuing the upkeep of the tomb into the
future. We hope you will consider a small donation when you renew or
initiate your ISBA membership.

Bunhill (probably a corruption of "bonehill") Fields operated as a burial
ground for "Dissenters" from 1665 to 1853, during which time around 123,000
burials took place. There are many notable graves, including John Bunyan,
William Blake, Daniel Defoe, many of the Cromwell family and Susanna Wesley
(mother of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, who is buried across the
City Road where his chapel still stands).

How to Find Bayes's Tomb

Map 1 is of Bunhill Fields,
copied by kind permission of the Corporation of London from "The Official
Guide to Bunhill Fields" (published by the Corporation of London, 1991, ISBN
0-85203-033-9). It clearly shows the site lying between the City Road and
Bunhill Row, with Bayes's tomb in a fairly central position. Note that both
entrances to Bunhill Fields are locked at night. There are no fixed opening
times, but do not expect to find it open outside daylight hours in winter or
normal working hours in summer.

Map 2 shows the surrounding
streets. The nearest Underground station is Old Street. The map shows one
exit, but there are exits at all four corners of the junction of Old Street
with City Road. The map shows Wesley's Chapel right opposite the City Road
entrance. Also of interest is that the Royal Statistical Society's offices
are at 12 Errol Street, just south west of Bunhill Fields. They are more or
less under the "b" of "bldgs". There is a footpath connecting Errol Street to
Dufferin Street, more or less directly under the grid line, so it is just two
minutes' walk from Bunhill Fields to the RSS. See also the dynamic
map
.