Who created sampling distributions? I have looked everywhere and I'm writing a paper, but, so far, all I've been able to come up with is the theory and the definition. Please help me find the who, what, when,and where.


1 Answer 1


If you refer to the term "sampling distribution," information is hard to find. But the concept is crucial to Jakob Bernoulli's (Switzerland) recognition that there is a distinction between that distribution and the population distribution itself, leading to his formulation (and proof) of a Law of Large Numbers. (The Wikipedia article attributes the first statement of such a law to Cardano (Italy), who--among many other things--was an avid gambler and mathematician in the first half of the 16th century.) Bernoulli's seminal work was published posthumously in 1713 as his ars conjectandi but likely was developed in the late 1600's in response to pioneering work by Pascal and Fermat (France) as recounted by Christian Huyghens (Netherlands) in an influential (and amazingly brief) 1657 textbook, de ratiociniis in ludo aleae.

For more background you can read a brief accounting of some of this history I wrote in the form of a review of a Keith Devlin book, The Unfinished Game.

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    $\begingroup$ (+1) Let me just add the amazingly detailed an accurate A History of Probability and Statistics and Their Applications before 1750 by Anders Hald as a possible reference. $\endgroup$
    – NRH
    May 14, 2011 at 22:22
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    $\begingroup$ @NRH Thanks for the reminder: I was going to cite that for Bernoulli but forgot. See the second chapter. (I was unimpressed with some of the characterizations in the overview chapter, Chapter 1, however, so I do have some misgivings about this book.) $\endgroup$
    – whuber
    May 14, 2011 at 22:29

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