20 J. Legal Econ. 15 (2014)
Benjamin Gompertz and the Law of Mortality

handle is hein.journals/jole20 and id is 21 raw text is: James E. Ciecka. 2014. Benjamin Gompertz and the Law of Mortality. Journal of
Legal Economics 20(1-2): pp. 15-29.
Reviews and Cases of Note
Benjamin Gompertz and the Law of Mortality
James E. Ciecka*
I. Introduction
Benjamin Gompertz (1779-1865) was born in London into a Jewish
family with roots in Holland. Gompertz's father and grandfather were
diamond merchants; but Benjamin's interests, although business related,
were more academic and scholarly. Denied university admission because
he was a Jew, he was self-taught in higher mathematics by reading Isaac
Newton (1642-1727) and Colin Maclaurin (1698-1746).' In 1810,
Gompertz married the sister of Moses Montefiore (1784-1885), the
financier and philanthropist. It was through Montefiore that Gompertz
was connected to Nathan Rothschild (1777-1836), the founder of his
family's international banking empire in Great Britain. Montefiore's
wife's sister was married to Rothschild; and Montefiore and Rothschild
has some shared business ventures, one of which Gompertz managed for
several years. In addition to being a practicing insurance actuary and
businessman, Gompertz communicated his first paper to the Royal
Society in 1806, became a Fellow in the Royal Society in 1819, and was a
founding member of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1820, Royal
*James E. Ciecka, Professor, Department of Economics, DePaul University, 1
East Jackson Boulevard, Chicago IL, 60604. Phone: 312 362-8831, E-mail:
jciecka@depaul.edu. I wish to thank Gary R. Skoog for reading this note and
suggesting improvements, as did John Berdell, Seth Epstein, Lane Hudgins,
Anthony Krautmann, and Timothy Opiela. Also, I wish to thank special editors
Lane Hudgins, Thomas R. Ireland, and Marc A. Weinstein for their willingness to
publish notes of historical interest.
Jews in Great Britain did not enjoy full civil rights until after the Catholic
Emancipation Act of 1829. Shortly after the passage of that act, Jews were
accorded similar treatment under the law as Catholics. Afterwards, many
Jewish families flourished. Two very public signs of progress include the 1837
knighthood of Moses Montefiore, then the Sherriff of London, by Queen
Victoria (1819-1901). Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) became Prime Minister
in 1868. He was a member of Church of England when he was Prime Minister,
but he was born a Jew and baptized at age 12.

Ciecka: Benjamin Gompertz and the Law of Mortality

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