Load Home page + menu
Last Update nov 1, 2003

Errors in, addenda for and remarks on Books pertaining to the History of Probability and Statistics

Although some might consider this page to be an exercise in nit-picking, I like to think of it as a reminder The fact that only the books of David, Droesbeke, Hald and Klein are mentioned does not imply that I read my literature in alphabetical order or that the other books do not contain any erroneous statements but only that I have not (yet) encountered them. As I am interested in Christiaan Huygens, it is especially in texts about to him and his work, that I tend to note slips of the pen or of the mind and feel confident enough to mention them.

David, FN (1962, 1998) Gods, Games and Gambling: a History of Probability and Statistical Ideas.
page problem solution
index 270
Connington, S(usan) Cunnington, Susan: author of The Story of Arithmetic: A Shorter History of the Origin and Development. Sonnenschein 1904.
54 Jerome Cardano ; a biographical study Waters William George (1844-1928). Jerome Cardan ; a biographical study. London, Lawrence & Bullen, 1898
69, 80, 122, 139,
index 272
Hoeffer Hoefer or Höfer, Jean-Chretien Ferdinand (1811-1878, dir.), Nouvelle biographie générale (universelle) [46 volumes]. Paris, Firmin Didot 1853-1866.
The mysterious Hoeffer, S. mentioned in the index is probably caused by the phrase Hoeffer's on page 69
82 V. Sandford Vera Sanford: author of A Short History of Mathematics (1930; rpt. Cambridge, Mass.: Houghton Mifflin, 1958). Student of D.E. Smith
99, 109,
index 269
Bell, ET Bell, Walter George, who wrote The Great Plague in London in 1665 (Londen, John Lane, 1924). Eric Temple Bell was the author of Men of Mathematics (1937)
xvi, 110,
index 272
Christianus Huygens This should be Christiaan. Christianus the latinized version is only used in the full latinized name 'Christianus Hugenius'. In this form Huygens name appears for example in Van Schooten's preface of Van Rekeningh in Spelen van Geluck. NB the English 1698 translation of Kosmotheoros carries the name Christianus Huygens on the title page.
110 His father, also Christianus, Christiaan Huygens' father was called Constantijn, David probably confused the name of Christiaans father with that of his grandfather.
index 274
Stampisen The name of the the tutor of Christiaan Huygens is Stampioen (Johan Jansz Stampioen the younger: 1610 - after 1690); in 1639-40 Stampioen came in conflict with Descartes as result of his book on Mathematics, that was interpreted by Descartes as a critique on his own approach.
111, 120, 121 Ludovick This should be Lodewijk. Ludovick seems short for Ludovicus, the latinized version of Lodewijk.
111 Doublet Philips Doublet junior, son of Constantijn Huygens' sister Geertruyd
112 became the fifth book became the last part of the fifth book
113-115 There are two forewords The translation of these two prefaces is allmost certainly based on the French translation of the Dutch text in the Oeuvres Complètes de Christiaan Huygens, (tome 14, 1920, pages 54, 56 and 58).
Just one example of what translating a translation can result in:
  • Dutch: Soo dat ick van noode gehad heb, alles van vooren aen selfs te ondersoecken en te doorgronden.
  • French: J'ai donc dû examiner et approfondir moimême toute cette matière à commencer par les éléments.
  • David (English from French): I have had therefore to examine and to go deeply for myself into this matter by beginning with the elements.
  • English from Dutch: Therefore I have had to examine and fathom everything by myself from scratch.
For comparison I also add the Latin text.
  • Latin: adeo ut a primis elementis universam hanc materiam evolvere mihi necesse fuerit.
  • English from Latin: thus it was necessary for me to explain all this (matter) from the very first principles.
The French translation seems in several instances to be an interpretation instead of a translation of the Dutch text and sometimes hamper a clear understanding by a less than fortunate choice of wording (eg approfondir), which might explain the rather uneven quality of the English translation.
Note in this example the influence of the Latin text on the wording of the French translation. Note also that the Latin text only uses one verb evolvere for the two verbs that are used in Dutch (ondersoecken and doorgronden) and French (examiner and approfondir) and that can be recognized in Davids translation (examine and to go deeply).
114 I presume that his wit will please you,... I presume that his writing will please you,.. The French text has "Je présume que son Écrit te plaira". I would be curious to see David's manuscript of her book because some errors, like this one, seem to be of a type that could very well be explained by illigible handwriting
115 But these savants,... This translation also points directly to the rather interpretative French translation (on page 58 of the Oeuvres Complètes de Christiaan Huygens) 'Mais ces savants'. The Dutch text has 'Doch sy luyden', the Latin text 'Cæterum illi' both of which can be translated as 'But those people'.
115 Chr Huygens de Zuylichem Chr Huygens of Zuylichem. Just one more example of bad translation. The phrase Chr Huygens de Zuylichem was probably simply copied from the French text on page 58 of the Oeuvres Complètes de Christiaan Huygens.
116-118 'translations of problems' These translations are also based on the Oeuvres Complètes de Christiaan Huygens. Hald (1990, p 69) assumes them to be translated from the De Ratiociniis in Ludo Aleae.
118 These exercises are ... sampling with and without replacement... Huygens' exercises as well as his solutions are all based on the implicit assumption of sampling with replacement. This is also explicitly stated on page 119. It is only after the publication of the text that it was suggested by other authors e.g. Hudde and Jacob Bernoulli, that other sampling strategies were possible. This was not however how Huygens stated these exercises and thought about them. So these exercises have served as a stepping stone, a launch pad for others to start thinking about new way's of interpreting and dealing with the problems posed. This is rather different from Davids statement that 'for the first time sampling with and without replacement occurs in the literature'. This error seems to have propagated also in later publications see e.g. Droesbeke
122 'References": twenty volumes, Netherlands Society, 1920 Oeuvres Complètes de Christiaan Huygens publiées par la Société Hollandaise des Sciences (Dutch Society of Sciences, Hollandsche Maatschappij der Wetenschappen), La Haye : Martinus Nijhoff (1888-1950), 22 books in 23 volumes.
    I-X. Correspondance.
  1. 1638-1656. (1888.)
  2. 1657-1659. (1889.)
  3. 1660-1661. (1890.)
  4. 1662-1663. (1891.)
  5. 1664-1665. (1893.)
  6. 1666-1669. (1895.)
  7. 1670-1675. (1897.)
  8. 1676-1684. (1899.)
  9. 1685-1690. (1901.)
  10. 1691-1695. (1905.)
  11. Travaux mathématiques, 1645-1651. (1908.)
  12. Travaux de mathématiques pures, 1652-1656. (1910.)
  13. Dioptrique.
    1. 1653; 1666. (1916.)
    2. 1685-1692. (1916.)
  14. Calcul des probabilités. Travaux de mathématiques pures, 1655-1666. (1920)
  15. Observations astronomiques. Système de Saturne. Travaux astronomiques, 1658-1666. (1925.)
  16. Percussion. Question de l'existence et de la perceptibilité du mouvement absolu. Force centrifuge. Travaux divers de statique et de dynamique de 1659 à 1666. (1929.)
  17. L'horloge à pendule de 1651 à 1666. Travaux divers de physique, de mécanique et de technique de 1650 à 1666. Traités des couronnes et des parhélies (1662 ou 1663). (1932.)
  18. L'horloge à pendule ou à balancer de 1666-1695. Anecdota. (1934.)
  19. Mécanique théorique et physique de 1666 à 1695. Huygens à l'Académie royale des sciences. (1937.)
  20. Musique et mathématique. Musique. Mathématique de 1666 à 1695. (1940.)
  21. Cosmologie. (1944.)
  22. Supplément à la correspondance. Varia. Biographie de Chr. Huygens. Catalogue de la vente des livres de Chr. Huygens. (1950)
151, 154 fifth (part) Should probably be fourth part?.
181 G. Buckley Should probably be W. Buckley. As his Memorable Arithmetic (Arithmetica Memorativa) was translated from Latin, it seems reasonable to assume that G. stood for Gulielmus, the Latin form of William
194 table For no apperent reason the table on this page differs from that in the Italian text of the 1898 edition of Galileo's work in that the left colum, containing the number of possible throws, originally was located on the right side of the table.
The original table (see above) seems to be somewhat easier to read because the different values are separated by periods.
225 Isaac Beertman This is probably Isaac Beeckman (1588-1637). Although the translator (Maxine Merrington) makes a note about inconsistent spelling which is left as it occured, this error seems to be of a different order
Droesbeke, J-J, Tassi, Ph (1990) Histoire de la Statistique
page problem solution
24 entre 1650 et 1660 1656: Huygens wrote the first draft of the Dutch text before march 10, 1656. He wrote several additions during the same year. Van Schooten translated the text in Latin which was finally published in september 1657. The Dutch text was published in 1660
24 ...avec ou sans remise... See comment above on David page 118.
34 datent de 1899 datent de 1799. Christian Kramp (1760-1826) in Analyse des refractions astronomiques et terrestres Imprimé a Strasbourg: Chez Philippe Jacques Dannbach, 1799
Hald, A (1990) A History of Probability and Statistics and their Applications before 1750
page problem solution
43 Psacal Pascal
67 contains a reprint In variance with pages 74 and 558, this is a correct representation of the contents.
69 David has translated Davids text is not a translation of the Latin text but of the French translation found in Oeuvres Complètes de Christiaan Huygens (1920). It should be noted that the wording of Halds translations indicates that they are based on the Dutch text.
69 difference in wording Huygens also uses the word 'kans' meaning 'chance/occasion', which is avoided by Van Schooten in his translation
74 2) Korteweg's edition (1920) in Huygens collected work, Vol 14; The 14th volume of the Oeuvres Complètes de Christiaan Huygens does not contain the text of De Ratiociniis in Ludo Aleae. As both 1) (Ars Conjectandi) and 3) (idem) refer to the Latin text, it seems improbable that Hald refers to the Dutch text when he mentions Korteweg's edition
106 Lodewijk (Ludwig) Huygens It is not clear to me why Hald mentions Ludwig, the German version of the name Lodewijk. Hald seems to do something similar when discussing James (Jacob, Jacques) Bernoulli on page 221. In the latter case however Hald could have been adding, in parentheses, the more original (German and French) versions of James, the Anglicized version. This does not seem a valid explanation in the former case.
NB David E. Smith mentions in his History of Mathematics that he prefers Jacques or Jacobus over Jacob and James because Bernoulli published only in French and Latin. Therefore according to Smith one should use either the French or Latin version of Bernoullis name.
110 Betnoulli Bernoulli
558 Reprinted in Oeuvres The 14th volume of the Oeuvres Complètes de Christiaan Huygens does not contain the text of De Ratiociniis in Ludo Aleae. It only contains the text of Van Rekeningh in Spelen van Geluck with a translation in French, side by side.
Huygens, Chr (1660, 1998) Van Rekeningh in Spelen van Geluck vertaald en toegelicht door Wim Kleijne.
page problem solution
7 Degenen die de 'Rekeningh' wilden bestuderen, waren aangewezen op de oorspronkelijke uitgave... In theory people could find the Dutch text + French translation in the Oeuvres Complètes de Christiaan Huygens tome XIV. There were also two other editions of the Dutch text published in 1895 and in 1897 and a French translation of the Dutch text by KR Gallas, published in 1898. All these editions are (somewhat) difficult to obtain.
49 Al in april 1656...meldde hij...aan...Roberval He wrote march 10, 1656 already to Van Schooten about the Dutch text.
50 ...dat Huygens van 1655 to 1675 in parijs woonde. Instead of 'living' (woonde), this should be 'stayed' (verbleef); at least for the year 1655. Together with his brother, his nephew and a friend, Huygens first arrived in Paris in july 15, 1655 and returned home on december 15, 1655. This trip to Paris was more like a 'Grand Tour'. In this period he also bought a degree in Law in Angers.
50 In Parijs heeft hij in de jaren '50 zijn tekst... He wrote the Dutch text in the Hague in 56 ...