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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

February people and society news 

An update for February on what our society has been up to...



In October 2019, David Collinson received the Phiatus Award and a £500 cheque from the Worshipful Company of Actuaries Charitable Trust for his work on the Wild Wheelchairs Project. 

David and motivational speaker Alex Lewis set up the project two years ago, with the aim of ascending Ethiopia’s highest mountain, Ras Dashen, which has an elevation of 4,550m. They also wanted to create a wheelchair manufacturing facility in Ethiopia and produce a documentary about the project. 

Alex (www.alex-lewis.co.uk) is a quadruple amputee, so getting up a high mountain represents a challenge. David managed and funded the project, producing the handcycle and undertaking the expedition and seed capital for the wheelchair workshop before the fundraising started. The wheelchair factory is now up and running, producing wheelchairs in the Ethiopian city of Bahir Dar.

In October, the team undertook a 14-day expedition to ascend Ras Dashen, successfully reaching the summit on 6 October. You can read their blog following the expedition at www.wildwheelchairs.com or at bit.ly/wildWheelchairs

The expedition team included Winchester Hospital’s intensive care specialist Dr Geoff Watson, who saved Alex’s life six years ago and was the one to help him up the final stretch to the summit, as well as 20-year-old Ethiopian wheelchair basketball player Emebet Ale Dires. The team used a specially designed solar-powered, battery-assisted handcycle to allow Alex and Emebet, who has no legs, to transport themselves through the foothills and up to just below the summit of the mountain. This handcycle was developed by a team of masters students from the University of Southampton.

Director Simon Ratigan filmed the expedition and will release a documentary on the project and expedition soon.

An evening with Olympian Cath Bishop 

10 February 2020, 6pm-10pm

Join Cath Bishop, Olympic silver medallist, for drinks, canapés and a fascinating talk entitled ‘The Long Win:  How our obsession with coming first can get in the way of achieving success’. 

This is a fantastic opportunity to hear from world-class speaker Cath  who is a former Olympic rower, conflict diplomat and regular at Radio 4’s Broadcasting House (www.cathbishop.com).

The evening will take place at The Oriental Club, Stratford Place, W1C 1ES at 6pm for 6.30pm. The dress code is smart casual and the cost is £50 a head. Contact the WCA for more details.


Congratulations to Georgina Crowe and Kevin Hyden, who work at Aviva and were married on 13 July.


Lifespan and the genome

By Ioannis Kyriakou, TANC executive advisor, Cass Business School

On 21 November, Peter Joshi, Chancellor’s Fellow at the University of Edinburgh and an actuary and genetic researcher, gave a talk as part of The Actuarial Network at CASS’s (TANC) series of events on the genetics and genomics of human lifespan. 

Peter went through recent developments in our understanding of DNA and how it affects lifespan. Studies show that lifespan runs in families with a typical slope of 8%, which translates to someone living longer by 0.75 years if either the mother or the father lived longer than average by 10 years. 

Until now, genetic analysis has been restricted to rare, very large effects within affected families and screening applied during IVF for rare large-effect familial disease. Now, from his work on a very large dataset of a million parents, Peter has found 12 loci associated with lifespan. He concluded that genomic revolution is presenting opportunities and deep ethical challenges to society, some of which are actuarial.

Call for your news… 

We would be delighted to hear from you. If you have any newsworthy items for these pages, please contact us at: [email protected]