concluded that the history of risk and insurance was the field
that most interested him and he enrolled in the doctoral program at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
The statistician Frederick Hendriks—certainly the greatest
mind of the three—made outstanding contributions as an actuary even in his 20s but found his surest home not in the Institute
of Actuaries but in the Royal Statistical Society.
Both Gover and Hendriks lived upper-class lives by Victorian
standards—particularly Gover (at the time of his death in 1894,
he was living in “Casino House,” designed by the famous architect John Nash, on a 16-acre estate). Trenerry, the son of a civil
service accountant, apparently lived his entire life in the much
more modest home of his parents.
There’s little doubt that Gover would have ranked his
business, his family, and his civic contributions as his greatest
achievements. While able and successful in business, Hendriks probably would have placed the greatest value on his
statistical and historical writings—and his family. In Trenerry
we find yet a third stream—a man who despite his attainment
of the AIA designation did not find his primary satisfaction
in actuarial work. He was fascinated by the early antecedents
of the modern insurance contract. He wrote his thesis on the
subject—a thesis flawed by a lack of polish and organization
(which he might have supplied had he survived to edit it for
publication) and also flawed by the occasional deficit in seasoned judgment. Still, Trenerry left a work that continues to
be cited in the literature of the history of risk and that has yet
to be supplanted as a fundamental source for risk management
in ancient times.
Is the same variety of opportunities available to aspiring
actuaries of today? Similarities abound. The tensions between
actuaries and statisticians in the 19th century are similar to tensions between actuaries and financial economists in our own
time. The relationships between actuaries working for private
enterprise and those working in academia still provide moments
of both challenge and community.
Gover the entrepreneur, Hendriks the statistician, and Trenerry the academician all were familiar with the motto of the
Institute of Actuaries: certum ex incertis (certainty out of uncertainty). None lived to see the Society of Actuaries adopt John
Ruskin’s maxim “The work of science is to substitute facts for
appearances and demonstrations for impressions.” But they
would have appreciated its significance. I believe that their differing career paths also would have led them to agree with a yet
more modern actuarial maxim, “Risk Is Opportunity.”
KENNETH W. FAIG JR., a fellow of the Society of Actuaries
and a member of the Academy, is manager, actuarial services,
at polysystems inc. in Chicago. He acknowledges the assistance
of David Raymont, librarian at the institute of Actuaries;
Richard Temple, archivist, Senate House Library at the
university of London; and Sue nichols, librarian at Streatham &
Clapham High School.
Works marked with (*) may be consulted in
their entirety without charge on Google Books.
Alborn, Timothy L., “A Calculating Profession:
Victorian Actuaries among the Statisticians,”
Science in Context (v. 7 n. 3, 1994), pp. 433-468.
Bensa, Enrico, Il contrato di assicurazione nel
medio evo; studi e ricerche, Genoa: Tipografia
marititima editrice, 1884. (*)Translated as
Histoire du contrat d’assurance au moyen age
[Toulouse: Chauvin et Fils, 1897] by Jules
(*)Caverly, R. B., and G. N. Bankes, Leading
Insurance Men of the British Empire, London:
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Hall, Edwin T., Dulwich History & Romance
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Life Contingencies,” Journal of the Institute of
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Lewin, C. G., Pensions and Insurance Before
1800: A Social History, East Linton, Scotland:
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Poitras, Geoffrey, The Early History of Financial
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Raynes, Harold E., A History of British
Insurance, London: Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons
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(*)Singer, Isidore et al., The International
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Spooner, Frank C., Risks at Sea: Amsterdam
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This article is solely the opinion of its author.
It does not express the official policy of the
American Academy of Actuaries; nor does it
necessarily reflect the opinions of the Academy’s
individual officers, members, or staff.