The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Graunt, John (1620–1674)

  • R. M. Smith
Reference work entry


Graunt was born on 24 April 1620 in Hampshire and died on 18 April 1674 in London. At the age of 16 he was apprenticed to his father as a haberdasher of small wares, but remarkably little is known of his life before he published his Natural and Political Observations Made upon the Bills of Mortality in 1662. Graunt had formed a friendship with William Petty, who came from a social and economic background similar to his own and who may have drawn Graunt’s attention to the data in the London Bills of Mortality. Six months after the publication of the Natural and Political Observations Graunt was made a fellow of the Royal Society, in whose foundation Petty had been greatly involved. The publication of this volume had an immediate impact; a second edition was published the same year and two others in 1665. Graunt subsequently fell into disgrace following his conversion to Catholicism and he died in poverty despite generous help from Petty. The latter’s own work, especially that on urban growth, owed much to methodologies initiated by Graunt.


Bills of Mortality Fertility Graunt, J. Life tables Mortality Petty, W. Population growth 

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  1. Glass, D.V. 1963. John Graunt and his ‘Natural and political observations’. Royal Society of London Notes and Records 19: 63–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Greenwood, M. 1948. Medical statistics from Graunt to Farr. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Sutherland, I. 1963. John Graunt: A tercentenary tribute. Proceedings of the Royal Society, Series A 126: 537–556.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Sutherland, I. 1972. When was the Great Plague? In Population and social change, ed. D.V. Glass and R. Revelle. London: Edward Arnold.Google Scholar

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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. M. Smith
    • 1
  1. 1.