John Arbuthnot

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
John Arbuthnot

John Arbuthnot (born April 1667 in Inverbervie , Scotland , † February 27, 1735 in London ) was a Scottish doctor , mathematician and writer .

Live and act

After studying medicine and mathematics at Marischal College in Aberdeen and a degree in medicine from St Andrews University , Arbuthnot taught mathematics in London and became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1704 . He was mainly concerned with probability theory and was a friend of David Gregory . Between 1705 and 1714 he was the personal physician of the British Queen Anna .

In 1710 he published an alleged proof of God under the title An argument for Divine Providence, taken from the constant regularity observed in the births of both sexes . Arbuthnot noticed that in all of the 82 birth statistics he analyzed, more boys than girls were born. He interpreted this as evidence of a coincidence that did not exist in this regard. From today's perspective, one would conclude with such data in the course of a statistical hypothesis test that the probability of the birth of a boy is significantly higher than that of a girl. In this respect, Arbuthnot is also considered a pioneer in statistical tests.

Arbuthnot was one of the founders of the Scriblerus Club in 1713 , which included writers and poets such as Jonathan Swift , Alexander Pope and John Gay . The resulting fictional memoirs of Martinus Scriblerus were in turn caricatured in the satire The Scribleriad ( 1751 ) by Richard Owen Cambridge . He achieved lasting fame for his political satires , which were directed against the Whigs' party and participation in the War of the Spanish Succession . His Miscellaneous Works were published posthumously in 1751 .


  • Of the Laws of Chance (1692, anonymous, supplemented translation of Christian Huygens ' De Ratiociniis in Ludo Aleae )
  • An Essay of the Usefulness of Scientific Nature (1701)
  • Tables of Ancient Coins, Weights and Measures (1727)
  • The Memoirs of the Extraordinary Life, Works and Discoveries of Martinus Scriblerus (1741), ISBN 1843910012
  • Miscellaneous Works (1751)
  • Angus Ross (Ed.): The Correspondence of Dr. John Arbuthnot . Fink, Munich 2006.


  • George Aitken: Life and Works of John Arbuthnot, MD Oxford (1892), ISBN 0781273188 .
  • Greg Lynall: A Political Biography of John Arbuthnot . London: Taylor & Francis 2020, ISBN 9781851969777 .

Web links

Wikisource: John Arbuthnot  - Sources and full texts (English)
Wikisource: John Arbuthnot  - Sources and full texts
Commons : John Arbuthnot  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual references, footnotes

  1. ^ John Arbuthnot: An argument for Divine Providence, taken from the constant regularity observed in the births of both sexes . In: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London . tape 27 , 1710, pp. 186–190 , doi : 10.1098 / rstl.1710.0011 (English, [PDF]).
  2. John Arbuthnot ( Memento of the original from March 17, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , StatProb: The Encyclopedia Sponsored by Statistics and Probability Societies  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /