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GOMPERTZ, BENJAMIN:

British actuary; born in London March 5, 1779; died there July 14, 1865. He was descended from the family of Gomperz of Emmerich. In 1798 he began to contribute to the "Gentleman's Mathematical Companion," for a long time carrying off the annual prizes of that magazine. Though he entered the Stock Exchange, he continued to study mathematics, became a member of the old Mathematical Society of Spitalflelds, and acted as its president when it became later the Astronomical Society. He was a contributor to the "Transactions" of the Royal Society, and in 1817-18 published tracts on imaginary quantities and porisms which established his reputation as a mathematician. In 1819 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society, and became a member of its council in 1832. In 1821 he was made a member of the council of the Astronomical Society, subsequently contributing many valuable papers to its proceedings.

Gompertz's reputation rests mainly on his work as actuary. On the establishment of the Guardian Insurance Office in 1821 he was a candidate for its actuaryship, but the directors objected to him on the ground of his religion. His brother-in-law, Sir Moses Montefiore, in conjunction with Nathan Rothschild, thereupon founded the Alliance Assurance Co. (1824), and Gompertz was appointed actuary under the deed of settlement. In this capacity he developed in 1825 a mathematical law of human mortality which remains the foundation of all actuarial calculations. In 1848 Gompertz, after twenty-four years' service, retired from the actuaryship and devoted himself to scientific labors. He had been frequently consulted by the government, and was a member of numerous learned societies as well as of the leading Jewish charities. He worked out a plan of poor-relief which was afterward adopted by the Jewish board of guardians.

Bibliography:
  • A. de Morgan, in Athenæum, July 22, 1865;
  • list of Gompertz's scientific papers in Notes and Queries, 2d series, x. 163;
  • M. N. Adler, in Assurance Magazine, 1865;
  • Jew. Chron. Oct. 6, 1845;
  • Dict. National Biography, s.v.
J. G. L.
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