Benjamin Gompertz and the Law of Mortality


James E. Ciecka. 2014. Benjamin Gompertz and the Law of Mortality. Journal of Legal Economics 20(1–2): pp. 15–29.

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Benjamin Gompertz (1779–1865) was born in London into a Jewish family with roots in Holland. Gompertz’s father and grandfather were diamond merchants; but Benjamin’s interests, although business related, were more academic and scholarly. Denied university admission because he was a Jew, he was self-taught in higher mathematics by reading Isaac Newton (1642–1727) and Colin Maclaurin (1698–1746). In 1810, Gompertz married the sister of Moses Montefiore (1784–1885), the financier and philanthropist. It was through Montefiore that Gompertz was connected to Nathan Rothschild (1777–1836), the founder of his family’s international banking empire in Great Britain. Montefiore’s wife’s sister was married to Rothschild; and Montefiore and Rothschild has some shared business ventures, one of which Gompertz managed for several years. In addition to being a practicing insurance actuary and businessman, Gompertz communicated his first paper to the Royal Society in 1806, became a Fellow in the Royal Society in 1819, and was a founding member of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1820, Royal Statistical Society in 1834, and London Mathematical Society in the year of his death in 1865.


James E. Ciecka


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