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Thomas Bayes

Thomas Bayes (c. 1701–1761) was a Presbyterian minister interested in calculus, geometry, and probability theory. He was born in Hertfordshire, England. The son of a Nonconformist minister, Bayes was banned from English universities and so studied at Edinburgh University before becoming a clergyman himself. Only two works are attributed to Bayes during his lifetime, both published anonymously. He was admitted to the Royal Society in 1742 and never published thereafter.

The paper that gives us "Bayes's Theorem" was published posthumously by Richard Price. The theorem has become an important concept for frequentist and Bayesian statisticians alike. However, the paper indicates that Bayes considered the theorem relatively unimportant. His main interest appears to have been that probabilities were not fixed but instead followed some distribution. The notion, now foundational to Bayesian statistics, was largely ignored at the time.

Whether Bayes's theorem is appropriately named is the subject of much debate. Price acknowledged that he had written the paper based on information he found in Bayes's notebook, yet he never said how much he added beyond the introduction. Some scholars have also questioned whether Bayes's notes represent original work or are the result of correspondence with other mathematicians of the time.


Vera Nikolaevna Kublanovskaya

Vera Nikolaevna Kublanovskaya (1920–2012) was born in Krokhino, Russia, a small fishing village east of St. Petersburg. After finishing her secondary studies, Vera started her training to become a primary school teacher, but her grades were so outstanding that her mentors encouraged her to pursue a career in mathematics.

After graduation, she started working on computational algorithms for the Soviet nuclear program, from which she retired in 1955. She also participated in the development of numerical linear-algebra operations in the computer language PRORAB for the first electronic computer in the Soviet Union, BESM. In 1955, she received her PhD. She then published numerous papers, in particular on the topic of numerical linear algebra. Her most acclaimed contribution is as one of the inventors of the QR algorithm for computing eigenvalues of matrices.


Max Otto Lorenz

Max Otto Lorenz (1876–1959) was born in Burlington, Iowa. He did his undergraduate studies at the University of Iowa and received his PhD from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1906. In 1905, he published his only article in a scientific journal, "Methods of Measuring the Concentration of Wealth". In the article, he introduces what we now call the Lorenz curve, a term first introduced in a statistics textbook in 1912.

Lorenz worked all of his life in governmental statistical institutions. He was the Deputy Commissioner of Labor and Industrial Statistics for Wisconsin, worked for the U.S. Bureau of the Census, the Bureau of Railway Economics, and was the Director of the Bureau of Statistics and the Bureau of Transport and Economic Statistics.

His hobbies included calendar reform and Interlingua, a proposed international language.


Andrey Markov

Andrey Markov (1856–1922) was a Russian mathematician who made many contributions to mathematics and statistics. He was born in Ryazan, Russia. In primary school, he was known as a poor student in all areas except mathematics. Markov attended St. Petersburg University, where he studied under Pafnuty Chebyshev and later joined the physicomathematical faculty. He was a member of the Russian Academy of the Sciences.

Markov's first interest was in calculus. He did not start his work in probability theory until 1883, when Chebyshev left the university and Markov took over his teaching duties. A large and influential body of work followed, including applications of the weak law of large numbers and what are now known as Markov processes and Markov chains. His work on processes and chains would later influence the development of a variety of disciplines such as biology, chemistry, economics, physics, and statistics.

Known in the Russian press as the "militant academician" for his frequent written protests about the czarist government’s interference in academic affairs, Markov spent much of his adult life at odds with Russian authorities. In 1908, he resigned from his teaching position in response to a government requirement that professors report on students’ efforts to organize protests in the wake of the student riots earlier that year. He did not resume his university teaching duties until 1917, after the Russian Revolution. His trouble with Russian authorities also extended to the Russian Orthodox Church. In 1912, he was excommunicated at his own request in protest over the Church's excommunication of Leo Tolstoy.


John Snow

John Snow (1813–1858) was born in York, England. From age 14, he worked as an apprentice and assistant to surgeons in northeast England and Yorkshire. In 1836, Snow moved to London; he was admitted to the Royal College of Surgeons in 1838 and the Royal College of Physicians in 1850. He made outstanding contributions to the adoption of anesthesia and is considered one of the originators of modern epidemiology. Snow died following a stroke in 1858.

Snow calculated dosages for ether and chloroform. He personally administered chloroform to Queen Victoria for the births of her last two children, which helped obstetric anesthesia gain wider acceptance.

Snow was skeptical of the miasma theory that cholera was caused by foul air. His essay On the Mode of Communication of Cholera was first published in 1849 and then greatly enlarged in 1855 with the results of his very detailed investigation of the role of water supply in the epidemic of 1854 in the Soho district of London. Snow identified the source of the outbreak as the public water pump on Broad Street (now Broadwick Street), leading the local council to remove the pump handle. It was later discovered that the well had been dug very close to an old cesspit. He also mapped the clustering of cholera cases around the pump and related mortality to water sources, clearly showing higher death rates in areas supplied by the Southwark and Vauxhall Waterworks Company, which was taking water from sewage-polluted sections of the River Thames. Snow's study is widely regarded as pioneering in public health, epidemiology, and medical geography.