Synopses & Reviews
Bayes' rule appears to be a straightforward, one-line theorem: by updating our initial beliefs with objective new information, we get a new and improved belief. To its adherents, it is an elegant statement about learning from experience. To its opponents, it is subjectivity run amok.
In the first-ever account of Bayes' rule for general readers, Sharon Bertsch McGrayne explores this controversial theorem and the human obsessions surrounding it. She traces its discovery by an amateur mathematician in the 1740s through its development into roughly its modern form by French scientist Pierre Simon Laplace. She reveals why respected statisticians rendered it professionally taboo for one hundred and fifty years—at the same time that practitioners relied on it to solve crises involving great uncertainty and scanty information, even breaking Germany's Enigma code during World War II, and explains how the advent of off-the-shelf computer technology in the 1980s proved to be a game-changer. Today, Bayes' rule is used everywhere from DNA decoding to Homeland Security.
Drawing on primary source material and interviews with statisticians and other scientists, The Theory That Would Not Die is the riveting account of how a seemingly simple theorem ignited one of the greatest controversies of all time.
From critically acclaimed author Sharon Bertsch McGrayne comes a compelling, accessible account of the development of Bayes' rule.
About the Author
Sharon Bertsch McGrayne is the author of critically-acclaimed books about scientific discoveries and the scientists who make them. Her published works include Prometheans in the Lab, Nobel Prize Women in Science, and Blue Genes and Polyester Plants. Sharon's work has been reviewed in Nature, Physics Today, Significance, the Washington Post, Ms., JAMA, Chemistry and Engineering News, New Scientist, American Scientist, PopularMechanics.com, among other publications. She has appeared on NPR's Talk of the Nation: Science Friday and been invited to speak at more than twenty universities in the U.S. and in Europe, at national laboratories such as Argonne National Laboratory and the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST), and at the Centennial meeting of the American Physical Society.She has written for Science, Scientific American, Discover magazine, Isis, American Physical Society News, The Times Higher Education Supplement, and Notable American Women. Excerpts of her books have appeared in The Chemical Educator, The Physics Teacher, and Chemical Heritage Foundation magazine.A former prize-winning journalist for Scripps-Howard, Crain's, Gannett and other newspapers, Sharon has coauthored numerous articles about physics for the Encyclopaedia Britannica. A graduate of Swarthmore College, she lives in Seattle, Washington. Laural Merlington has recorded well over one hundred audiobooks, including works by Margaret Atwood and Alice Hoffman, and is the recipient of several AudioFile Earphones Awards. An Audie Award nominee, she has also directed over one hundred audiobooks. She has performed and directed for thirty years in theaters throughout the country. In addition to her extensive theater and voice-over work, Laural teaches college in her home state of Michigan.