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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

The Greatest British Actuary Ever®

Watching the recent television series
Great Britons, where a shortlist of ten
(the demi-greatest?) was extracted from an initial list of 100 candidates, analysed, and voted upon, my first reaction was to think what an eclectic lot they were. Why John Lennon? Why Diana? Why no Faraday or Fleming? And then there were suggestions of vote-rigging on behalf of some of the candidates.
It led me to think of conducting a similar survey to ascertain the ‘Greatest British Actuary Ever’. However, as I do not have a licence-funded army of researchers, I have to put a limit on the scope. I propose to run the survey in the following way.

Selection criteria
The candidate, although he or she does not have to be a fellow of the Faculty or Institute, must have practised or worked in the UK or, exceptionally, the candidate could be a non-fellow whose work has profoundly influenced for the better the UK actuarial profession. For this purpose, the UK includes Ireland. I will not go any further back than 1762. Unlike the television series, candidates do not need to be dead!
The person must have made a significant contribution to:
– the advancement or synthesis of actuarial knowledge or practice;
– the enhancement of the status of the profession in the eyes of his employer, or his clients, or society at large; or
– the widening of the scope of the profession.

I have set out a ‘long-list’ of candidates below. Readers are invited to vote on these candidates, and also to suggest others (we may ‘manually adjust’ the vote to allow for late-reported candidates). Having extracted a shortlist, in succeeding issues I shall pick three of them and argue the case for their selection. It would be much better if other actuaries were prepared to argue for some of the candidates if anyone is interested in participating, please let me know on whose behalf you wish to speak. You will be entitled to vote each month for your preferred candidate of the three considered. We will track how the voting patterns change with each trio of mini-biographies that are published. Once the process is complete, the top favourites will be identified for a final showdown in the summer.
The voting procedure is as follows: to prevent vote-rigging, only members of the UK profession (by definition, honourable people all) will be entitled to vote. Voting should be by letter or email to my secretary Jo Took (B&W Deloitte, Horizon House, Epsom, Surrey KT17 4RS, email jtook@bw-deloitte.com) stating the name of the votary and the person being voted for.
The list below has been compiled from memory. The allocation to one of the three categories is sometimes arbitrary, as some people would fall into more than one. I have included in the second category actuaries who have built successful businesses. If readers pick up any major omissions (Scots seem scarce, for example), please can they report them to me perhaps somebody will also tell me which actuary had the inspiration to invent the commutation function!
Advanced or synthesised knowledge
William Morgan
Charles Babbage
Benjamin Gompertz
WM Makeham
Augustus de Morgan
John Finlaison
HW Manley
George Hardy
AH Bailey
TB Sprague
George King
GJ Lidstone
Sir William P Elderton
Karl Pearson
Maurice Kendall
Wilfred Perks
Frank M Redington
Andrew H Rowell
Herbert W Haycocks
Tom Suttie
James BH Pegler
Tom Springbett
AT Haynes
RJ Kirton
Maurice E Ogborn
Gordon Bayley
Ron Skerman
Colin M Stewart
Chris Smart
Steve Haberman
David Wilkie
Andrew D Smith

Enhanced the status of the profession
Sir Alfred Watson
Reginald Maudling
Duncan C Fraser
Dick Gwilt
DWA Donald
Sir Herbert Tetley
Kenneth Usherwood
Geoffrey Heywood
Sir Brian Corby
Jim Anderson ASA
Ron Abbott
Derek Fellows
John Sparks
Frederick Langham
Geoffrey Humphrey
Bill Proudfoot
David Berridge
Colin Lever
Roger Corley
Peter Nowell
Mike Ross
David Prosser
Chris Daykin
Iain Lumsden
Scott Bell
Charles Thomson

Widened the scope of the profession
Percy Dove
Sir George H Maddex
Frederick AA Menzler
William P Phelps
Robert Eric Beard
Bernard Benjamin
Peter Moody
George Ross Goobey
Peter Johnson
Marshall Field
John Prevett
Sidney Benjamin
Gordon Pepper
Geoff Westall
Tom Ross
Stewart Ritchie
George Orros
Des Le Grys
Bryn Davies
James Crosby
Chris Lewin