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St. Petersburg. Daniel Bernoulli’s paper, Latin original. 1738


Latest addition to the Economics in the Rear-view Mirror Rare Book Reading Room: a link to the Latin original of Daniel Bernoulli’s paper for his solution to the St. Petersburg paradox.

From the English translator’s note: “I am also grateful to Mr. William J. Baumol, Professor of Economics, Princeton University, for his valuable assistance in interpreting Bernoulli’s paper in the light of modern econometrics”.

Visitors must drop down this page to the comments section to enjoy the material shared by Olav Bjerkholt that he found in the Econometrica files regarding the publication of the English translation of the Bernoulli paper. Fabulous stuff!



Bernoulli, Daniel. Specimen theoriae novae de mensura sortis, Commentarii academiae scientiarum imperialis PetropolitanaeTomus V. St. Petersburg, 1738, pp. 175-192.
Repository: Natural History Museum Library, London.

German translation by Alfred Pringsheim with introduction by Ludwig Fick. Leipzig: Duncker & Mumblot, 1896.

English translation (link requires access to jstor) by Dr. Louise Sommer published as “Exposition of a New Theory on the Measurement of Risk” in Econometrica, Vol. 22, No. 1 (January, 1954), pp. 23-36.

Image Source: New York City Public Library Reading Room, ca. 1911. From Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA.

Irwin Collier

Posted by: Irwin Collier

One thought on “St. Petersburg. Daniel Bernoulli’s paper, Latin original. 1738

  1. I appreciated the mention of the Bernoulli publication in Econometrica 1954. I can offer some additional details as excerpts from the Econometrica files.

    Simpson to Frisch 04.06.51: “L.J. Savage and several others have recommended that Econometrica make available in English, “Specimen Theoriae Novae de Mensura Sortis” by Daniel Bernoulli which appeared in Latin in Commentarii Academiae Scientiarum Imperialis Petropolitanae, Tomus V, 1738, pp. 175-192, and subsequently was translated into German in Die Grundlage der Modernen Wertlehre: Versuch einen neuen Theorie der Wertbestimmung von Glücksfällen (A. Pringsheim, Trans.), Leipzig: Dunker & Humblot, 1896, 60 pp. The basic article is of manageable size. If you approve of this suggestion I will arrange for the translation (under Cowles Commission financing) and have somebody such as Professor Milton Friedman write an accompanying note on the significance of this particular article as the forerunner of many of the ideas which play an important role in modern economic theory. This would, in other words, be an attempt to give increased emphasis to the history of our subject matter.”
    Frisch to Simpson 15.06.51: “Provided you can get space for an English translation of the Daniel Bernoulli paper without squeezing out other valuable material, I think it would be a good plan to include it. However, in this case too, we ought to be careful that the inclusion of this material does not make it necessary to omit other valuable materiel which is of a more strictly econometric sort.”
    L-132 Strotz to Frisch 30.04.53: “We recently received from Professor Louise Sommer her translation from Latin of Daniel Bernoulli’s “Exposition of a New Theory of the Measurement of Risk.” Professor Sommer has worked on this translation for a long time and was supported in part by funds from the Cowles Commission. Professor William Baumol has gone over her translation quite thoroughly and polished it up a great deal. The finishing touches are now being put on, and I may turn to Karl Menger to see whether more work should be done in annotating the translation. Baumol has done some of this annotating, but it may be that more would be worthwhile. Would you be willing to have this translation included in the July issue if necessary even though I may not be able to get a copy of it to you in advance? Since you are undoubtedly well acquainted with the Bernoulli paper either in original or in the Pringsheim German translation and since only questions of style are involved in the English translation of Professor Sommer, I hope that this quite irregular procedure will meet with your approval.”
    L-142 Strotz to Frisch 18.09.53: “Professor Louise Sommer has finally completed her work on the translation of Bernoulli’s paper and Professor Karl Menger has agreed to review her translation with the purpose of supplying annotation and editorial comments such as may be appropriate. It seems that this will all be ready to go in time for the January issue. Accordingly, I am sending you a copy of her translation. Since I have but one copy of the final version which I must turn over to Professor Menger, the copy that is enclosed is of a penultimate version, but I believe very few changes were subsequently made.”

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