By Anupum Pant
Abraham de Moivre was a famous French mathematician who’s known even today for his de Moivre’s formula. Besides that he’s also known for his work in normal distribution and probability theory.
Moivre’s another area of interest involved making mortality tables. He spent a considerable amount of time connecting death with numbers and was said to have formulated a theory that could predict the day on which a person would die.
When he was 87 years old he noticed a slight change in his sleeping duration. He found that he had started sleeping for 15 minutes more than his usual duration. Each night he was sleeping 15 minutes longer. Putting the math together, he calculated that his sleeping time would add up to 24 hours on November 27th 1754. According to him, when that would happen he would never wake up again. And that is what happened.
De moivre died on November 27, 1754!
Actually, since he had predicted this, out of stubbornness and an obdurate desire to keep up his name as a great statistician, he voluntarily tried everyday to keep up with this 15 minute increase in the sleeping duration everyday. And the day when his total sleep duration added up to 24 hours, he did die. But the official cause of his death was Somnolence (or “sleepiness”).
If luck (or bad luck, if you may call it that) hadn’t favoured him, he would have slept for 24 hours and 15 minutes the other day. In reality, it was his stubbornness and probably sheer luck which put him to an eternal sleep, not math.