Research Interests

I am currently working on projects related to the history of probability, statistics and actuarial science, as well as, more generally, the history of mathematics.

 

I have written a number of papers related to probability in 18th century Britain that touch on the lives and work of John Arbuthnot, Thomas Bayes, Abraham De Moivre, Lord Philip Stanhope (2nd Earl Stanhope and lead sponsor for Thomas Bayes for membership in the Royal Society) and Charles Waldegrave (of Waldegrave’s problem in probability). With this cast of characters, and a host of others from 17th and 18th century Britain, I am writing a book tentatively entitled Web of Chance: A History of Probability and Its Applications in Eighteenth Century Britain. I hope to have the book in print early in 2010.

 

The theory and practice of the evaluation of life annuities in the first quarter of the 18th century by Abraham De Moivre is an application of probability theory that reverberated throughout the 18th century in Britain. Later in that century it emerged firmly as a part of life insurance mathematics or actuarial science. I have recently begun a project that examines the evolution of actuarial techniques from 1725 to 1850 along with the emergence of the profession of actuary culminating in the founding of the Institute of Actuaries in 1848.

 

Various aspects of my work in the history of probability and statistics have drawn me into other historical topics in mathematics. My analysis of images in Pierre Rémond de Montmort’s Essay d’analyse sur les jeux de hazard and Abraham De Moivre’s The Doctrine of Chances has led me to examine more generally images in 18th century mathematical books. This work is being carried out jointly with Bill Acres of Huron University College. My work on Thomas Bayes has led to my joining a project called “The History of Dissenting Academies in the British Isles, 1660-1860”, headed by Professor Knud Haakonsen of the University of Sussex. My part in the project is to work on the mathematics curriculum in these academies.

 

I have combined my statistical and historical interests in a project carried out jointly with Mike Bauer in Computer Science at the University of Western Ontario and Bill Acres in History and Theology at Huron University College. We are building and analyzing a database to study knowledge networks related to captains in the army of Elizabeth I of England.

 

My work in history has been supported by grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).

 

I continue to do some work in statistical theory and methods. My interest here lies in the analysis of survey data and the analysis of data arising from organ transplants in human patients. Typically, I supervise graduate students in these areas of research.

 

My work in statistical theory and methods has been supported by grants from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

 

Recent M.Sc. Students and Project Titles