American history says that two former presidents, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, both died on July 4, 1826, fifty years after signing the Declaration of Independence. I’ve long wondered about that. I took classes in college on the subject of statistics, but the problem was that I was having a testosterone storm centered on a certain girl, and my mental capacities were shut down. I eked out a C and remember very little.
Fortunately, others of more steadfast makeup took those courses and can do that work. Kevin Knudson of Forbes Magazine is one. He wrote about it here.
Since 1826 was not a leap year, the odds of the two men dying on the same day are simply 1/365. Even that is unlikely … would you bet a horse with those odds? It is by itself daunting.
But Knudson goes a little deeper yet. The men were of different ages, Adams 90, Jefferson 83. Those are long lives for that era: The odds that Jefferson would live to be 83 against a 65 norm would be 17.9%, or about one in five. For Adams, age 90, it is even more unlikely, about 13%. Since the two deaths were independent of one another, we can multiply those odds together, yielding a 2.5% likelihood of them both being alive in 1826. Multiply that by 1/365 of dying on the same day, and the result is a staggering 7 in 100,000 that it really happened.
I take it one step further … 7 in 100,000 is the odds that they died on ANY day in 1826. But July 4 was not just any day. It was a special day, a hyped day, one of exceptional historical significance overshadowing all other 364 days. I add yet another 1/365 likelihood to this equation, making the odds of those two deaths on that particular day 7 in 36,500,000, or 1 in 5,200,000.
I am not betting that horse. Statistics never say something is impossible. But in this case I am suggesting either a mutual suicide pact, or a hoax with bodies kept on ice until the appropriate patriotic death day rolled around – or one or both men simply disappearing from public view at that time. It happens now, and so could happen then.
It most likely did not happen the way we are told. I am not betting that horse.