Abraham Demoivre - Encyclopedia

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ABRAHAM DEMOIVRE (1667-1754), English mathematician of French extraction, was born at Vitry, in Champagne, on the 26th of May 1667. He belonged to a French Protestant family, and was compelled to take refuge in England at the revocation of the edict of Nantes, in 1685. Having laid the foundation of his mathematical studies in France, he prosecuted them further in London, where he read public lectures on natural philosophy for his support. The Principia mathematica of Sir Isaac Newton, which chance threw in his way, caused him to prosecute his studies with vigour, and he soon became distinguished among first-rate mathematicians. He was among the intimate personal friends of Newton, and his eminence and abilities secured his admission into the Royal Society of London in 1697, and afterwards into the Academies of Berlin and Paris. His merit was so well known and acknowledged by the Royal Society that they judged him a fit person to decide the famous contest between Newton and G. W. Leibnitz (see Infinitesimal Calculus). The life of Demoivre was quiet and uneventful. His old age was spent in obscure poverty, his friends and associates having nearly all passed away before him. He died at London, on the 2 7th of November 1754.

The Philosophical Transactions contain several of his papers. He also published some excellent works, such as Miscellanea analytica de seriebus et quadraturis (1730), in 4to. This contained some elegant and valuable improvements on then existing methods, which have themselves, however, long been superseded. But he has been more generally known by his Doctrine of Chances, or Method of Calculating the Probabilities of Events at Play. This work was first printed in 1618, in 4to, and dedicated to Sir Isaac Newton. It was reprinted in 1738, with great alterations and improvements; and a third edition was afterwards published with additions in 1756. He also published a Treatise on Annuities (1725), which has passed through several revised and corrected editions.

See C. Hutton, Mathematical and Philosophical Dictionary (1815). For Demoivre's Theorem see Trigonometry: Analytical.

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