Actuarial history research
The special collections and archives of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries offer rich ground for new research of actuarial history.
For those considering research in this area, there are introductions to insurance and pensions history and reading lists of published work on some of the breakthrough actuarial insights before and since the actuarial professional associations began. Some are slide presentations for a seminar on actuarial history that was hosted by the Institute of Actuaries in June 2007.
- Our heritage (by Chris Lewin, featured in 'About us' introducing the history of actuarial science and the profession)
- An overview of actuarial history by Chris Lewin FIA (seminar presentation, June 2007) [pdf]
An historical timeline noting instances of early funded pensions and insurance, landmark actuarial insights of acclaimed scientists and mathematical practitioners, the emergence and impact of the actuarial profession up to the present day is in preparation.
Resources supporting historical research
'Associated documents' (right) features the catalogue of the libraries' special collections (books and manuscripts published before 1901), reading lists of published books and articles on actuarial history and exhibition listings to displays and exposition of pioneering actuarial archives and texts.
You can always search the online library catalogue for books and papers written on actuarial history.
Information about the library at Staple Inn, London, which still adds historic texts to the original Institute collection, includes an overview of highlight books and manuscripts. The early Archive of the Equitable Life Assurance Society, acquired by the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries in 2006 and bearing first evidence of actuarial science applied in modern insurance practice, is also at Staple Inn.
The original Faculty library's antiquarian collection, formerly at Maclaurin House library, is now deposited at Edinburgh University and you can consult the University's library catalogue for Faculty items in the special collections.
Topics for historical research and research support
Possible themes to explore include early forms of pensions, insurances and instruments of state debt financing at interest, demographic insights and the development of mortality tables and projections from the seventeenth century, and the progress of actuarial life assurance and other provident funding as they became established on actuarial lines from the late eighteenth century. There are resonances with more current financial issues to uncover!
In Actuarial history for the making: call for authors, The Actuary, June 2006, Trevor Sibbett FIA suggested topics for new research and outlines library support to researchers. His seminar paper provides guidance and prompts on European sources for research of actuarial history and the scope for translation whilst Professor David Bellhouse shows in his presentation on Eighteenth century annuity: calculations and applications that original innovations, such as the work of Edmond Halley, are still open for further investigation.
Biographical information about members of the actuarial profession
To aid research of actuary ancestors, the libraries maintain an index of obituaries of members of the UK actuarial profession published in respective Yearbooks and List of Members published, Journal of the Institute of Actuaries, Transactions of the Faculty of Actuaries and The Actuary magazine. You may find many through a search for a name in the website’s Document Library (right).
Documents listing past presidents of the Faculty of Actuaries and presidents of the Institute of Actuaries and members who attained their present status of membership before 1951 are available as associated documents to the Biographical information on members. Special profiles on actuarial pioneers and leaders of the profession include one of John Finlaison, first president of the original Institute, whilst biographical papers in the journals may be found by search of the document library.
The former Institute and Faculty have each recognised their respective members for their examination success or for acclaimed papers to meetings of members and the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries awards medals to individuals making significant contributions to the advance of actuarial science. This information is recorded in the 'Members' area of the website
History of Staple Inn
The Institute of Actuaries established its offices at Staple Inn, London in 1887. The Hall was originally built ca. 1581 and Staple Inn stayed an Inn of Chancery for the young legal profession until 1884. As the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries attracts enquiries about its landmark home, we offer a summary history of Staple Inn and guide to research about the building and those who have lived here.
Links to other sites
Among biographical profiles of leading mathematicians in history are several who have taken interest in actuarial questions of mortality, life expectancy and financial valuation.
Maintained by Emil Valdez, University of Connecticut; originally compiled by Henk Wolthuis of University of Amsterdam, this gathers together many papers on actuarial history including links to the resources on the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries website.
Please contact David Raymont, librarian at Staple Inn with any enquiries relating to historical research via firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone +44 (0)20 7632 2114.