of its value. Life-annuities continued to be sold on mere conjecture. Even the English Government made no distinction between different ages in the early part of the eighteenth century. A child at ten years could obtain a life annuity of £100 for £714, while it was probably worth over £1,300 at that time.
It is not within the province of this article to trace in detail the progress made in the science of life contingencies. Nearly every mathematician of note contributed to the perfection of the theory, while it was left almost exclusively to England to apply it in practice.
Passing over minor writers, Thomas Simpson, a self-taught mathematician, a mind of great originality, next deserves notice. In 1742 he enlarged upon the theory of Halley, De Moivre, and others, and, deeming the Breslau table not applicable to English conditions, he compiled and computed a mortality-table from the London mortality bills from 1728 to 1737. For a number of years he published pamphlets and delivered lectures on the subject, attracting the attention of the public at large.
Shortly thereafter James Dodson, also a very able mathematician, employed Simpson's tables, and made many valuable additions and suggestions thereto. He contributed a number of able papers to the "Philosophical Transactions," and was the first to point out, in 1755, how mortality-tables might be applied to the calculation of life-insurance premiums.
Up to this time, it will be noticed, life insurance in the modern sense was unknown. Both tontines and annuities had the very opposite object in view, sacrificing the whole capital for an increased income during lifetime. The reasons that made tontines popular have been briefly touched upon. Similar causes applied to life-annuities; besides, they provided a convenient way of evading the usury laws, and were often resorted to for that purpose. It was impossible to discriminate what part of the high rate of interest paid was for the use of money, and what percentage was due to the chance of death.
But, while life insurance as a system is of recent date, the practice of effecting temporary insurance on lives had its origin with the rise of marine insurance, probably as early as the fourteenth century. It was no more, however, than a mere bet, not based upon any experience or estimate, and led to many immoral devices. On that ground it was declared unlawful, and prohibited in the Netherlands, Spain, and Italy, together with other wager contracts, as far back as the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. In England, however, there was no restriction, and, in the eighteenth century, betting on the lives of prominent men was carried on regularly at Lloyd's and other coffee-houses in London.
The spirit of gambling, that set in with the South-Sea bubble in 1720, continued to ebb and flow until the statute against wager contracts was enacted in 1773. It gave rise to a large number of wild