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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Appeal to members to save a unique actuarial archive

The actuarial profession has been invited to purchase the archive of the Equitable Life Assurance Society (ELAS). This presents an opportunity to acquire, preserve and make records of the highest importance in actuarial history accessible to the profession, the wider research community, and to the public. The archive comprises business records, manuscripts, and printed books of the first institution to operate life insurance on a scientific basis where the title and role of the actuary in its modern sense was conceived. The original work of Thomas Bayes, James Dodson, William Morgan, and Richard Price, among others, features in a virtually complete record of over 200 years of insurance practice, from 1762 to the mid-1900s.

The potential acquisition fits perfectly within the scope of the profession’s long-established library collection policy that has targeted primary texts in the development of actuarial science. This archive includes data relevant not only to research in actuarial science but also of relevance to medical, statistical, and genealogical research. Its acquisition would present an opportunity to work together with partner institutions to publicise the archive and make it accessible. Space constraints at Staple Inn will necessitate that the key actuarial material would be retained at Staple Inn while the bulk of the archive would be deposited by arrangement in the care of a partner library.

The archive’s contents have been confirmed independently as having a high market value. The profession has made an offer but this is conditional upon the profession’s raising funds. The Faculty and Institute Management Committee has agreed that up to £10,000 from the profession’s funds can be contributed towards this possible purchase, while the Staple Inn Actuarial Society is kindly contributing £5,000. It thus relies upon individual members or actuarial groups to demonstrate their support for this project with extra donations to help achieve the purchase price negotiated.

Therefore we are appealing to individual members, actuarial societies and companies who would wish to make contributions to secure the purchase of the ELAS archive. The profession has a reserved but very time-limited opportunity until 31 March 2006 to raise funds for the purchase price. Should the profession fail to secure the archive it is entirely possible that it would be auctioned piecemeal, with important items perhaps going abroad.

Please contact David Raymont at Staple Inn library (email david.raymont@actuaries.org.uk, tel 020-7632 2114) for further information about the archive and how to contribute. Any direct cheque payment contribution made payable to the ‘Actuarial Profession’ and sent to David with a covering note clearly stating this purpose will be most gratefully received and acknowledged. Contributors who so wished would have their names permanently associated with the archive.