A Brief History of Random Numbers


“As an instrument for selecting at random, I have found nothing superior to dice,” wrote statistician Francis Galton in an 1890 issue of Nature. “When they are shaken and tossed in a basket, they hurtle so variously against one another and against the ribs of the basket-work that they tumble wildly about, and their positions at the outset afford no perceptible clue to what they will be even after a single good shake and toss.”

How can we generate a uniform sequence of random numbers? The randomness so beautifully and abundantly generated by nature has not always been easy to extract and quantify. The oldest known dice (4-sided) were discovered in a 24th century B.C. tomb in the Middle East.

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