Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Ansell, Charles

ANSELL, CHARLES, F.R.S., F.S.A (1794–1881), known for some years before his death as the father of the profession of actuaries, was born (probably in Essex) in 1794, entered the Atlas Fire and Life Assurance Company in 1808, and took a prominent position on the staff in 1810. In 1823 he was appointed actuary of the life branch of the company, and held the office down to 1864—a period of forty-one years —when he retired from active official life, but still remained the consulting actuary of the company. He also filled a similar post in the National Provident, the Friends' Provident, and the Clergy Mutual Life Offices, and was, likewise, the actuary of the Customs' Annuity and Benevolent Fund.

He was on several occasions called upon to advise on various schemes of national finance, notably on the government superannuation scheme, which ultimately fell through. He gave evidence before the select parliamentary committee (1841-43) to consider the law of joint-stock companies, and the select committee on assurance associations (1853).

His chief practice for many years was in connection with the actuarial problems involved in the working of friendly societies. He published a work upon that subject in 1835, which attracted much attention at the time, and remained a useful handbook for many years afterwards. It was, indeed, almost a first effort to treat friendly societies from a scientific standpoint. The work was published under the superintendence of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. He gave evidence before the select parliamentary committee on friendly societies in 1849, and before some of the later committees. Many years since he was instructed by the then Bishop of London (Dr. Blomfield) to make some calculations of this class, and he named as his fee 100 guineas. 'A hundred guineas, Mr. Ansell! Why, there are many curates in my diocese who don't get more than that for a year's services.' ‘That may be,’ was the quiet rejoinder; 'but actuaries are bishops.' The fee was paid.

Mr. Ansell resided during the later years of his life at Brighton, but he was only a few years before his death high sheriff of Merionethshire, where he had considerable landed property. He superintended the bonus investigation of the National Provident Association when close upon eighty years of age, and died at the close of 1881, at the age of 87. His personal estate was proved for 21,000l.

[For further and more technical details see Insurance Cyclopædia, vol. i.]

C. W.