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The influence of Huygens’ work in dynamics on his contribution to probability. (English) Zbl 0554.01012
The author notes an interesting similarity between two studies of Huygens, De motu corporum ex percussione on collision and De ratiociniis in ludo aleae on probability. In both the argument is developed from certain axioms concerning simple cases (collision of equal bodies with equal opposite velocities, value of a game with two players and equal chance of winning). In both propositions covering more complicated cases are derived from the axioms by intuitively convincing ad hoc arguments which in a way involve translation. In the collision case this is the relativity of motion (independence of the reference frame), in the case of probability it is a superposition of certain payments in such a way that the game remains fair. The author argues from these similarities and from the fact that Huygens worked out De motu shortly before De ratiociniis that it were partly his studies on collision that enabled Huygens to ”make such a dramatic contribution to probability in 1655-56” (p. 140).
Reviewer: H.J.M.Bos
01A45 History of mathematics in the 17th century
60-03 History of probability theory
70-03 History of mechanics of particles and systems
Biographic References:
Huygens, Christiaan
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