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Chances are that most gamblers will never even have heard of Abraham de Moivre, but he could have taught them a thing or two about games of chance.
Born in 1667, the son of a surgeon, in Vitry-le-Francois, in the Champagne region of France, Abraham did not exactly get off to a flying start academically. This could have been due to his family background, being a member of the Huguenot Protestant church. This prompted his early escape from the mainly Catholic France at the age of 18, when he sought refuge in London, England.
De Moivre tried to make a go of his new life, but fame and fortune always eluded him. In spite of failing to graduate from university in France, he did however find himself in illustrious company in London, numbering Sir Isaac Newton (he of the apple) and Edmund Halley (he of the Comet) among his friends.
A late developer
The young Abraham may have failed to attain any academic awards in France, but the more mature adult found himself drawn into academic pursuits. Following a fascination with logic, de Moivre began to develop an interest in probability and games of chance. His magnum opus was called the "Doctrine of Chances", which laid forth many ideas that mathematicians have employed throughout the years since his death, even to this very day. His book was occasionally termed the "Gambler's Handbook". De Moivre's work on probability theory ultimately led to his being accepted as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1697, a singular honor.
Cynics have suggested that de Moivre should have taken some of his own medicine, applying his probability ideas in the gambling circles of his day. He seemed disinclined to do so, and spent his latter years in poverty. One of the more illustrious patrons of the famous Slaughter's Coffee House in London, de Moivre made ends meet by playing chess, hardly a game of chance...
An enduring legend grew up around de Moivre's life, that he actually predicted the exact date of his death. Noting that he appeared to be sleeping 15 minutes longer every day, a simple calculation put the date of his death as November 27, 1754, which was indeed the day on which he died, aged 87.