Poisson distribution

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The Poisson distribution is any member of a class of discrete probability distributions named after Simeon Denis Poisson.

It is well suited for modeling various physical phenomena.

A basic introduction to the concept


Certain events happen at unpredictable intervals. But for some reason, no matter how recent or long ago last event was, the probability that another event will occur within the next hour is exactly the same (say, 10%). The same holds for any other time interval (say, second). Moreover, the number of events within any given time interval is statistically independent of numbers of events in other intervals that do not overlap the given interval. Also, two events never occur simultaneously.

Then the number of events per day is Poisson distributed.

Formal definition

Let X be a stochastic variable taking non-negative integer values with probability density function

Then X follows the Poisson distribution with parameter .

Characteristics of the Poisson distribution

If X is a Poisson distribution stochastic variable with parameter , then

  • The expected value
  • The variance

See also