Price, an influential moralist, mathematician, and rationalist, was chaplain of a Dissenting chapel at Stoke Newington, near Hackney, England. His first work, Review of the Questions of Morals
, published in 1758, advanced the theory that an individual's conscience and reason, rather than a fear of sin and punishment, should be that person's guide in making moral choices.
He was a friend of Joseph Priestly, and was visited at Newington Green by many scientists, moralists and political thinkers, including Franklin, Adam Smith, and the mathematician Thomas Bayes.
After Bayes' death, Price was given his papers. Using Bayes' data, Price wrote a ground-breaking paper for the Royal Society on probability theory, An Essay Towards Solving A Problem in the Doctrine of Chances
. His later research on life expectancy led to a 1770 paper on the correct calculation of "contingent reversions," which is the basis for insurance calculation.
When the teacher and author Mary Wollstonecraft opened a school for girls in Newington Green, she became a member of Price's chapel. A few years later, in 1789, he preached a sermon defending the French Revolution, which reverberated throughout the political and literary world. The statesman Edmund Burke, horrified, wrote Reflections on the Revolution in France
in response. In defense of Price, Wollstonecraft wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Man.
This information was drawn from an entry in www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk. Birth and death dates are from the Encyclopedia Britannica online.