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Sandy Zabell: The Secret Life of I. J. Good

On the occasion of Tom Sterkenburg's PhD defence the Department of Theoretical Philosophy hosts this talk by Sandy Zabell Professor of Mathematics and Statistics, Northwestern University.

I. J. ("Jack") Good was an important Bayesian statistician for more than half a century after World War II, and played an important role in the (eventual) post-war Bayesian revival. But his graduate training had been in mathematical analysis (one of his advisors had been G. H. Hardy); what was responsible for this metamorphosis from pure mathematician to statistician? As Good only revealed in 1976, during the war he had initially served as an assistant to Alan Turing at Bletchley Park, working on the cryptanalysis of the German Naval Enigma, and it was from Turing that he acquired his life-long Bayesian philosophy. Declassified documents now permit us to understand in some detail how this came about, and indeed how many of the ideas Good discussed and papers he wrote in the initial decades after the war in fact presented in sanitized form results that had had their origins in his wartime work. In this talk, drawing on these newly available sources, I will discuss the daily and very real use of Bayesian methods that Turing and Good employed, and how this was very gradually revealed by Good over the course of his life (including revealing his return to classified work in the 1950s).

When & where?

Friday January 19 at 11:00
Room Alpha of the Faculty of Philosophy in Groningen

Last modified:06 June 2019 12.44 p.m.