Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

University celebrates 'betting man' Thomas Bayes

Reverend Thomas Bayes
Image caption The Reverend Thomas Bayes spent four years studying at the University of Edinburgh

An 18th century clergyman whose mathematical legacy helps take some of the guesswork out of betting is being celebrated with a series of events at the University of Edinburgh.

The Reverend Thomas Bayes is best known for devising a theory that helps people forecast outcomes more reliably.

Bayesian theory is widely used every day across the world.

A workshop and public talk will take place to mark 250 years since the cleric's death in 1761.

Bayes studied logic and theology at the university from 1719 until 1722.

His theory is built into software that forecasts events, from movements in the financial market to changes in the weather.

Bayesian statistics are also used to filter email spam.

Curbing risk

The cleric's methods are used for forecasting results based on previous knowledge, such as estimating how a horse is likely to perform in a race by taking account of its previous race outcomes.

This approach helps to curb the risk in forecasting the result.

Prof Chris Williams, co-organiser of the events, said: "If Bayes were alive now, I think he would be amazed to see the impact of his work.

"It is fitting that we mark his legacy by celebrating all he brought to our understanding of statistics, and that we continue to develop this most intriguing branch of mathematics, in his memory."

The public talk on Bayes, entitled "How to gamble, if you must (courtesy of the Reverend Bayes)", will be given by Professor David Spiegelhalter of the University of Cambridge.

It will examine some modern applications of the cleric's theory, including catching doping athletes, predicting volcanic eruptions, and gambling.

The talk takes place on 5 September, with the three-day workshop running until 7 September.

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