Seminal and Historic Review Documents

The following is a collection of documents which cover milestones in the development of the Reliability Engineering, Safety Engineering and Integrated Logistic profession. Only those documents which are available electronically have been posted.  If you have a document you wish to contribute, please send us an email at

Significant Documents

The following are original documents which have made significant contributions to our profession.

Bayes Rule/Theorum

During the 1740s, the Reverend Thomas Bayes made the discovery we know today as Bayes Rule or Bayes Theorem.  $P(A|B) = P(B|A).P(A) / P(B)$. Bayes' never published his discovery before his death in 1761. Bayes friend, Richard Price found the discovery among his notes, re-editted it, and published it posthumously. Bayes rule provided the mathematical means to update an initial belief with new data to obtain and improved belief. Virtually no one seems to have noticed the paper, and Bayes rule would not be used until independantly discovered in 1774 by Pierre-Simon Laplace. The concept of Bayes rule is the basis of Bayesian interpretation of probability and has been used to decode the German Enigma cipher, search for a missing H-bomb and locate Soviet subs. It has gained significant popularity over the last few decades, particularly within the artificial intelligence community and within the reliability and safety industry.

Bayes, Mr, and Mr Price. “An Essay towards Solving a Problem in the Doctrine of Chances. By the Late Rev. Mr. Bayes, FRS Communicated by Mr. Price, in a Letter to John Canton, AMFRS.” Philosophical Transactions (1683-1775), 1763, 370–418.


Axioms of Probability

In 1933, Andrey Nikolaevich Kolmogorov published his axioms of probability which became the foundation of modern probability theory as "Grundbegriffe der Wahrscheinlichkeitsrechnung". The book "Foundations of the Theory of Probability" was translated into English and published in 1956. While alternatives exist, Kolmogorov's axiomatic basis for probability theory is the most widely accepted and what most statisticians would be familiar with.

In 1975, WASH-1400 "The Reactor Safety Study" was produced as a study of the risks relating to a serious accident at a Light Water Reactor. The study was the first full scale application of Probabilistic Risk Assessment techniques which had been developed, but were largly not used, within the Nuclear and Aviation industry. WASH-1400 marked a significant improvement over the previous 1957 "Brookhaven Report", WASH-740 which analysed extremely pessimistic scenarios and concluded that the probabilities were so low that estimates were not possible. Instead WASH-1400's objective was to provide a realistic estimate of the risks. After WASH-1400's release it took some time before regulators and the wider nuclear industry accepted the methodology of Probabilistic Risk Assessments. Since that time PRA has become the cornerstone of the nuclear regulatory system and has been applied in a vast range of industries including Aviation, Space and Oil and Gas.


Advisory Group on Reliability of Electronic Equipment (AGREE)

Reliability engineering for electronics started with the establishment of the Ad Hoc Group on Reliability of Electronic Equipment on 7 Dec 1950. In 1952 the DoD made the Ad Hoc Group a permanent group called the Advisory Group on the Reliability of Electronic Equipment (AGREE). The groups objective was to stimulate interest in reliability matters and recommend measures which would result in more reliable electronic equipment. AGREE established a program of 9 tasks, each assigned to a separate group. In most cases the results from each program resulted in the basis for the MIL-STD suite of reliability standards. The first report from AGREE, detailing the 9 tasks is contained below.


Reliability Centered Maintenance

In 1978, Nowlan and Heap published a report commissioned by the US Department of Defense which "provides the first full discussion of reliability-centered maintenance as a logical discipline for the development of scheduled maintenance programs". The study found that the majority of failures were not necessarily linked to age of the asset, and therefore attempts to predict life expectancies were ineffective.  This increased the focus on managing assets on condition. The report also detailed a logical decision process to determine the most appropriate maintenance task which. The standard marked a significant change in the way maintenance determinations have been made within our industry, and its principles form the basis of the JA1011 standard and therefore current RCM processes. 


Historic Reviews

The following documents provide context and history to how our profession has developed.

Crow, Larry. “Reliability: A Look at Four Decades of Reform Within the Department of Defense.” ITEA Journal 29 (2008): 244–46.