Page:EB1911 - Volume 02.djvu/88

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fourteen. He also states that the rate of interest had been successively reduced from 6¼ to 5%, and then to 4%. The principal object of his report is to prove that, taking interest at 4%, a life annuity was worth at least sixteen years’ purchase; and, in fact, that an annuitant purchasing an annuity for the life of a young and healthy nominee at sixteen years’ purchase, made an excellent bargain. It may be mentioned that he argues that it is more to the advantage, both of the country and of the private investor, that the public loans should be raised by way of grant of life annuities rather than perpetual annuities. It appears conclusively from De Witt’s correspondence with Hudde, that the rate of mortality assumed as the basis of his calculations was deduced from careful examination of the mortality that had actually prevailed among the nominees on whose lives annuities had been granted in former years. De Witt appears to have come to the conclusion that the probability of death is the same in any half-year from the age of 3 to 53 inclusive; that in the next ten years, from 53 to 63, the probability is greater in the ratio of 3 to 2; that in the next ten years, from 63 to 73, it is greater in the ratio of 2 to 1; and in the next seven years, from 73 to 80, it is greater in the ratio of 3 to 1; and he places the limit of human life at 80. If a mortality table of the usual form is deduced from these suppositions, out of 212 persons alive at the age of 3, 2 will die every year up to 53, 3 in each of the ten years from 53 to 63, 4 in each of the next ten years from 63 to 73, and 6 in each of the next seven years from 73 to 80, when all will be dead.

De Witt calculates the value of an annuity in the following way. Assume that annuities on 10,000 lives each ten years of age, which satisfy the Hm mortality table, have been purchased. Of these nominees 79 will die before attaining the age of 11, and no annuity payment will be made in respect of them; none will die between the ages of 11 and 12, so that annuities will be paid for one year on 9921 lives; 40 attain the age of 12 and die before 13, so that two payments will be made with respect to these lives. Reasoning in this way we see that the annuities on 35 of the nominees will be payable for three years; on 40 for four years, and so on. Proceeding thus to the end of the table, 15 nominees attain the age of 95, 5 of whom die before the age of 96, so that 85 payments will be paid in respect of these 5 lives. Of the survivors all die before attaining the age of 97, so that the annuities on these lives will be payable for 86 years. Having previously calculated a table of the values of annuities certain for every number of years up to 86, the value of all the annuities on the 10,000 nominees will be found by taking 40 times the value of an annuity for 2 years, 35 times the value of an annuity for 3 years, and so on—the last term being the value of 10 annuities for 86 years—and adding them together; and the value of an annuity on one of the nominees will then be found by dividing by 10,000. Before leaving the subject of De Witt, we may mention that we find in the correspondence a distinct suggestion of the law of mortality that bears the name of Demoivre. In De Witt’s letter, dated the 27th of October 1671 (Ass. Mag. vol. iii. p. 107), he speaks of a “provisional hypothesis” suggested by Hudde, that out of 80 young lives (who, from the context, may be taken as of the age 6) about 1 dies annually. In strictness, therefore, the law in question might be more correctly termed Hudde’s than Demoivre’s.

De Witt’s report being thus of the nature of an unpublished state paper, although it contributed to its author’s reputation, did not contribute to advance the exact knowledge of the subject; and the author to whom the credit must be given of first showing how to calculate the value of an annuity on correct principles is Edmund Halley. He gave the first approximately correct mortality table (deduced from the records of the numbers of deaths and baptisms in the city of Breslau), and showed how it might be employed to calculate the value of an annuity on the life of a nominee of any age (see Phil. Trans. 1693; Ass. Mag. vol. xviii.).

Previously to Halley’s time, and apparently for many years subsequently, all dealings with life annuities were based upon mere conjectural estimates. The earliest known reference to any estimate of the value of life annuities rose out of the requirements of the Falcidian law, which (40 B.C.) was adopted in the Roman empire, and which declared that a testator should not give more than three-fourths of his property in legacies, so that at least one-fourth must go to his legal representatives. It is easy to see how it would occasionally become necessary, while this law was in force, to value life annuities charged upon a testator’s estate. Aemilius Macer (A.D. 230) states that the method which had been in common use at that time was as follows:—From the earliest age until 30 take 30 years’ purchase, and for each age after 30 deduct 1 year. It is obvious that no consideration of compound interest can have entered into this estimate; and it is easy to see that it is equivalent to assuming that all persons who attain the age of 30 will certainly live to the age of 60, and then certainly die. Compared with this estimate, that which was propounded by the praetorian prefect Ulpian was a great improvement. His table is as follows:—

Age. Years’
Age. Years’
Birth to 20
20 ” 25
25 ” 30
30 ” 35
35 ” 40
40 ” 41
41 ” 42
42 ” 43
43 ” 44
44 ” 45
45 to 46
46 ” 47
47 ” 48
48 ” 49
49 ” 50
50 ” 55
55 ” 60
60 and


Here also we have no reason to suppose that the element of interest was taken into consideration; and the assumption, that between the ages of 40 and 50 each addition of a year to the nominee’s age diminishes the value of the annuity by one year’s purchase, is equivalent to assuming that there is no probability of the nominee dying between the ages of 40 and 50. Considered, however, simply as a table of the average duration of life, the values are fairly accurate. At all events, no more correct estimate appears to have been arrived at until the close of the 17th century.

The mathematics of annuities has been very fully treated in Demoivre’s Treatise on Annuities (1725); Simpson’s Doctrine of Annuities and Reversions (1742); P. Gray, Tables and Formulae; Baily’s Doctrine of Life Annuities; there are also innumerable compilations of Valuation Tables and Interest Tables, by means of which the value of an annuity at any age and any rate of interest may be found. See also the article Interest, and especially that on Insurance.

Commutation tables, aptly so named in 1840 by Augustus De Morgan (see his paper “On the Calculation of Single Life Contingencies,” Assurance Magazine, xii. 328), show the proportion in which a benefit due at one age ought to be changed, so as to retain the same value and be due at another age. The earliest known specimen of a commutation table is contained in William Dale’s Introduction to the Study of the Doctrine of Annuities, published in 1772. A full account of this work is given by F. Hendriks in the second number of the Assurance Magazine, pp. 15-17. William Morgan’s Treatise on Assurances, 1779, also contains a commutation table. Morgan gives the table as furnishing a convenient means of checking the correctness of the values of annuities found by the ordinary process. It may be assumed that he was aware that the table might be used for the direct calculation of annuities; but he appears to have been ignorant of its other uses.

The first author who fully developed the powers of the table was John Nicholas Tetens, a native of Schleswig, who in 1785, while professor of philosophy and mathematics at Kiel, published in the German language an Introduction to the Calculation of Life Annuities and Assurances. This work appears to have been quite unknown in England until F. Hendriks gave, in the first number of the Assurance Magazine, pp. 1-20 (Sept. 1850), an account of it, with a translation of the passages describing the construction and use of the commutation table, and a sketch