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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Historical aspects

I enjoy Matthew Edwards’s writing, particularly his classical quotations, and his review of the Encyclopedia of Actuarial Science in the January/February issue was no exception. His comment in the review that ‘the absence on some important historical aspects – for instance, tontines and Charles Babbage – was surprising’ has stimulated me to write, even though my points are possibly minor.

Tontines are discussed in volume two of the encyclopedia on p596 in the article on cohort tables and again on p854 in the article on the history of insurance. Charles Babbage’s contribution to actuarial science was his 1826 book, A Comparative View of the Various Institutions for the Assurance of Lives. Its interest lies in the review of the market at that time and his mortality table, which was used by an important German life office. However, the book contained no significant advance in ideas and that is why I did not include Babbage in my article.

David Forfar says in his article in the same issue, ‘The Scottish Widows was founded in 1815’. The foundation date of the Scottish Widows was 29 July 1814 and it wrote its first life policy on 10 October 1814. Its first prospectus, dated 1814, was entitled ‘Exposition of the Objects of the Institution formed under the denomination of the Scottish Widows’ Fund and Life Assurance Society’. In 1815 the society resolved that it commenced on 2 January 1815 (the 1st being a Sunday) and that its first investigation and distribution of surplus should be on 1 January 1825. Further details may be found in Sir Herbert Maxwell’s Annals of the Scottish Widows’ Fund, Edinburgh 1914.