Many historians of insurance have commented on the disconnect between the rise of English life insurance companies in the early eighteenth century and the mathematics behind the sound pricing of life insurance products that was developed at about the same time. Insurance and annuity promoters typically ignored this mathematical work. Bellhouse explores this issue, and shows that the early mathematical work was not motivated by insurance but instead by the fair valuation of life contingent contracts related to property. Even the work of the mathematician James Dodson in the creation of the Equitable Life Assurance Society, offering sound actuarially based premiums, did not change the industry in any significant way. The tipping point was a crisis in 1770 in which the philosopher and mathematician Richard Price, as well as other mathematicians, showed that a dozen or more recently formed annuity societies could not meet their financial obligations and were inviable.
David R. Bellhouse holds degrees in actuarial science and in statistics. He has been at the University of Western Ontario for more than forty years, where he now is Professor Emeritus. He has published extensively in the history of probability, statistics, and actuarial science, and has recently published a major biography of Abraham De Moivre. Bellhouse is a fellow of the American Statistical Association and has served as President of the Statistical Society of Canada. He is a recipient of the University of Western Ontario's Gold Medal for Excellence in Teaching, and recently received the University of Manitoba Faculty of Science Honoured Alumni Award.
Preface; 1. Introduction; 2. Mathematics and property in the seventeenth century; 3. Edmond Halley's life table; 4. Halley's impact or lack of it; 5. De Moivre and his early influence; 6. Mathematicians as consultants; 7. Mathematicians and early life insurance companies; 8. The annuity bubble of the 1760s and 70s; 9. The after shocks of the bubble on life annuities; 10. Developments in the life insurance industry in the later eighteenth century; 11. A return to roots; 12. Conclusion; Appendix I. Technical appendix; Appendix II. Life tables; Endnotes; Bibliography; Index.