William Morgan

William Morgan

Eighteenth-Century Actuary, Mathematician and Radical

Nicola Bruton Bennetts


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To meet William Morgan is to encounter the eighteenth-century world of finance, science and politics. Born in Bridgend in 1750, his heritage was Welsh but his influence extended far beyond national borders, and the legacy of his work continues to shape life in the twenty-first century. Aged only twenty-five and with no formal training, Morgan became actuary at the Equitable, which was then a fledgling life assurance company. Known today as ‘the father of the actuarial profession’, his pioneering work earned him the Copley Medal, the Royal Society’s most prestigious award. His interests covered a wider scientific field, and his papers on electrical experiments show that he unwittingly constructed the first X-ray tube. Politically radical, Morgan’s outspoken views put him at risk of imprisonment during Pitt’s Reign of Terror. This biography, using unpublished family letters, explores Morgan’s turbulent private life and covers his outstanding public achievements.


‘William spent 56 years at the Equitable Life Assurance Company, where he learnt how to understand and manage financial risk. In 1789, for his work on the mathematics of life assurance, he was awarded the Copley Medal, the Royal Society’s most prestigious decoration. Subsequent generations have hailed him as ‘the father of the actuarial profession’ – recognition of his having established many of the rules and standards on which the science is based.’

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