Session 4: The Rise of Actuaries in 19th century Europe and in Global Perspective

Wednesday, July 20th 2022, 14:30–16:30 (CEST), Room U1, 195

Zoom-Link: | Meeting ID: 661 0543 1683

Session Organisers: : Geoffroy Legentilhomme (University of Zurich), Christofer Stadlin (Zurich Insurance Company)


This session seeks to understand the emergence and development of actuarial science as discipline, and the influence it exerted over the expansion of the insurance industry and of related branches. Even though the term “actuary” first became common in the first half of the 19th century to designate the experts in charge of calculating premium and reserves for insurance companies, actuaries did not form at that time a precisely defined professional group. In Europe, the first formal professional and scientific institutions dedicated to the advancement of actuarial discipline and to the status of its practitioners were created in the second half of the century. The prestige of actuaries, as well as their influence within insurance companies, in the design of various welfare arrangement such as mutual aid societies and in the elaboration of social policies, increased as a result. The latter decades of the 19th century witnessed a boom of insurance-related scientific production. Our session wishes to shed light on the causes and consequences of the institutionalization and expansion of actuarial science, with a particular focus on the period going from the early 19th century to the early 20th century. We welcome in particular contributions adopting a comparative perspective, and contributions related to the role of actuaries in the internationalization of the insurance industry.

Suggestions include:

  • Contrasting experience in the development of actuarial science in European and non-European contexts.
  • The role of actuaries and actuarial science in the international expansion of insurance companies in the 19th century.
  • The involvement of actuaries in colonialism and how the colonial experience contributed in turn to shape the contours of actuarial science.
  • The various and contrasting paths the institutionalization of actuarial science took in various European countries.
  • The actuarial controversies over the solvency of mutual aid organizations.
  • The actuarial influence on the establishment of the welfare state and pensions.

1. Mutual aid societies and the development of actuarial regulation in France in the 19th century

  • Geoffroy Legentilhomme, Social and Economic History, University of Zurich

2The Rise of Actuaries and Swiss workers accident insurance 1880-1950

  • Christopher Stadlin, Corporate Historian, Zurich Insurance

3. Categories and Narratives of Expansion: How Actuaries Mobilized Political and Economic Frames to Argue for the Expansion of Insurance

  • Vera Linke, Department of Sociology, Helmut Schmidt University

4. The First Portuguese Scholars Studying Actuarial Science – Contributions Towards the Scientific Progress of Survivorship Pension Funds and Life Insurance Companies in the 19th Century

  • Ana Patrícia Martins, Interuniversity Centre for the History of Science and Technology , University of Lisbon, Portugal

5. Origin of Modern Insurance Industry in Slovakia and the Contribution of Dr. Ján Alojz Wagner to its Development

  • Erika Pastoráková, Department of Insurance, University of Economics in Bratislava
  • Tomáš Ondruška, Department of Insurance, University of Economics in Bratislava
  • Zuzana Brokešová, Department of Insurance, University of Economics in Bratislava