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Brief Biographical / Historical Sketch

Biography

Bruno de Finetti was born on June 13, 1906, in Innsbruck, Austria, and died in Rome on July 20, 1985. He began his academic career at the Polytechnic of Milan in 1923 as a student of engineering but later enrolled in the mathematics program at Milan University. While still an undergraduate student, he published his first paper in the area of biomathematics titled "Mathematical Considerations Regarding Mendelian Heredity."

After completing his degree in applied mathematics in 1927, he joined the newly formed Italian census bureau, Istituto centrale di statistica (ISTAT), in Rome. In 1930 he obtained a position as an assistant professor in mathematical analysis at the University of Trieste. One year later he also started working at the insurance company "Assicurazioni Generali" in Trieste on the company's system automation with IBM machines while at the same time teaching calculus of probability at the University of Trieste. In 1936 he entered the competition for the chair of financial mathematics and statistics. Although finishing first place, he was not nominated due to a fascist law denying access to this position to unmarried candidates. Eventually, in 1950, he was appointed ordinary professor at the University of Trieste, effective retroactively to the year 1942. In 1954 he accepted a call to the faculty of economy and commerce at the University of Rome and transferred in 1961 to the chair of calculus of probability at the faculty of mathematical, physical, and natural sciences. De Finetti stayed at the University of Rome until his retirement in 1976. He died in Rome on July 20, 1985.

De Finetti provided significant contributions to the theory and foundation of probability, both from methodological and philosophical points of view. His concept of subjective probability evolved as a result of his profound interest in the application of logical theories, such as the application of mathematics to actuarial questions, to the statistics of insurance, and to the organizational techniques of public administration.

De Finetti also pioneered the concept of "exchangeability" or "exchangeable events." With the introduction of this model, he discovered a way of connecting the notion of subjective probability with the traditional procedures of statistical inference. De Finetti developed his ideas on subjective probability in the 1920s independently of Frank P. Ramsey. He only became known in the Anglo-American statistical world in the 1950s when L. J. Savage introduced his writings.