Fermat and Pascal on Probability

Italian writers of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, notably Pacioli (1494), Tartaglia (1556), and Cardan (1545), had discussed the problem of the division of a stake between two players whose game was interrupted before its close. The problem was proposed to Pascal and Fermat, probably in 1654, by the Chevalier de M´er´e, a gambler who is said to have had unusual ability “even for the mathematics.” The correspondence which ensued between Fermat and Pascal, was fundamental in the development of modern concepts of probability, and it is unfortunate that the introductory letter from Pascal to Fermat is no longer extant. The one here translated, written in 1654, appears in the Œuvres de Fermat (ed. Tannery and Henry, Vol. II, pp. 288–314, Paris 1894) and serves to show the nature of the problem
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