Halley’s life table (1693)

  • Nicolas BacaërEmail author


In 1693 the famous English astronomer Edmond Halley studied the birth and death records of the city of Breslau, which had been transmitted to the Royal Society by Caspar Neumann. He produced a life table showing the number of people surviving to any age from a cohort born the same year. He also used his table to compute the price of life annuities. This chapter recalls this work and puts it in the context of Halley’s life and of the early developments of “political arithmetic” and probability theory, which interested people such as Graunt, Petty, De Witt, Hudde, Huygens, Leibniz and de Moivre.


Interest Rate Royal Society Life Table Seventeenth Century Main Research Subject 
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Further reading

  1. 1.
    Fox, M.V.: Scheduling the Heavens: The Story of Edmond Halley. Morgan Reynolds, Greensboro, North Carolina (2007) Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Graunt, J.: Natural and Political Observations Mentioned in a Following Index and Made upon the Bills of Mortality, 3rd edn. London (1665).
  3. 3.
    Hald, A.: A History of Probability and Statistics and Their Applications before 1750. Wiley, Hoboken, New Jersey (2003). Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Halley, E.: An estimate of the degrees of the mortality of mankind, drawn from curious tables of the births and funerals at the city of Breslaw; with an attempt to ascertain the price of annuities upon lives. Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. London 17, 596–610 (1693). CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Heyde, C.C.: John Graunt. In: Heyde, C.C., Seneta, E. (eds.) Statisticians of the Centuries, pp. 14–16. Springer, New York (2001) Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Koch, P.: Caspar Neumann. In: Heyde, C.C., Seneta, E. (eds.) Statisticians of the Centuries, pp. 29–32. Springer, New York (2001) Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Le Bras, H.: Naissance de la mortalité, L’origine politique de la statistique et de la démographie. Gallimard, Paris (2000) Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Limited 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.IRD (Institut de Recherche pour le Développement)BondyFrance

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