The 17th century was a period of advances in mathematics in Germany, France and England. At the same time there was a rapidly growing desire and need to place the valuation of personal risk on a more scientific basis. Independently of each other, compound interest was studied and probability theory emerged as a well-understood mathematical discipline. Another important advance came in 1662 from a London draper named John Graunt, who showed that there were predictable patterns of longevity and death in a group, or cohort, of people of the same age, despite the uncertainty of the date of death of any one individual. This study became the basis for the original life table. One could now set up an insurance scheme to provide life insurance or pensions for a group of people, and to calculate with some degree of accuracy how much each person in the group should contribute to a common fund assumed to earn a fixed rate of interest. The first person to demonstrate publicly how this could be done was Edmond Halley (of Halley’s comet fame). Halley constructed his own life table, and showed how it could be used to calculate the premium amount someone of a given age should pay to purchase a life annuity

Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London.
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