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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/788

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

mode of life of these individuals were obtained by Dr. Humphry, and will be referred to in subsequent paragraphs.

A short account of the experience of a few life-assurance companies will conclude this part of my subject. Mr. Thoms tells us that down to 1872 the records of the companies showed that one death among the assured had occurred at one hundred and three, one in the one hundredth, and three in the ninety-ninth year. The experience of the National Debt Office, according to the same authority, gave two cases in which the evidence could be regarded as perfect; one of these died in the one hundred and second year, and the other had just completed that number. In the tables published by the Institute of Actuaries, and giving the mortality experience down to 1863 of twenty life-assurance companies, the highest age at death is recorded as ninety-nine; and I am informed by the secretary of the Edinburgh Life Office that from 1863 onward that age had not been exceeded in his experience. In the valuation schedules, which show the highest ages of existing lives in various offices, the ages range from ninety-two to ninety-five. It is true that one office which has a large business among the industrial classes reports lives at one hundred and three, and in one instance at one hundred and seven; but it must be remembered that among those classes the ages are not nearly so well authenticated as among those who assure for substantial sums. There is, moreover, another source of error connected with the valuation schedules. When a given life is not considered to be equal to the average, a certain number of years is added to the age, and the premium is charged at the age which results from this addition. It follows, therefore, that in some cases the ages given in the schedules are greater by some years than they really are.

Taking into consideration the facts thus rapidly passed under review, it must, I think, be admitted that the natural limit of human existence is that assigned to it in the book of Ecclesiasticus, "The number of a man's days at the most are an hundred years" (chapter xviii. 9). In a very small number of cases this limit is exceeded, but only by a very few years. Mr. Thoms's investigations conclusively show that trustworthy evidence of one hundred and ten years having been reached is altogether absent. Future generations will be able to verify or reject statements in all alleged cases of longevity. It must be remembered that previous to the year 1836 there was no registration of births, but only of baptisms, and that the registers were kept in the churches, and contained only the names of those therein baptized.

Whatever number of years may be taken as representing the natural term of human life, whether threescore and ten or a century be regarded as such, we are confronted by the fact that only