The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Bayes, Thomas (1702–1761)

  • D. V. Lindley
Reference work entry


The Rev. Thomas Bayes was the eldest son of Joshua Bayes, a minister in the nonconformist church. He was probably educated at Coward’s Academy. After assisting his father as pastor in Hatton Garden, London, he became, in 1731, Presbyterian minister at Mount Sion, Tunbridge Wells where he remained until his death on 17 April 1761. His fame today rests entirely on one paper, found by his friend Richard Price amongst Bayes’ effects after his death and presented to the Royal Society (Bayes 1763; a convenient recent reference is Bayes 1958). The paper appears to have aroused little interest at the time and a proper appreciation was left to Laplace. Even today there is much discussion over just what Bayes meant, but the fact that so much interest is taken in a paper over 200 years old testifies to the importance of the problem and the brilliance of Bayes’ argument.


Bayes, T. De Finetti, B. Expectations Inference Laplace, P. S. Price, R. Probability Subjective probability 

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  1. Bayes, T. 1763. An essay towards solving a problem in the doctrine of chances. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 53: 370–418.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bayes, T. 1958. Reprint of the above with biographical note by G.A. Barnard. Biometrika 45: 293–315.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. De Finetti, B. 1974/5. Theory of probability, 2 vols. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. V. Lindley
    • 1
  1. 1.