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On The Nature Of The Function Expressive Of The Law Of Human Mortality, And On A New Mode Of Determining The Value Of Life Contingencies. In A Letter To Francis Baily, Esq. F. R. S. &c. By Benjamin Gompertz, Esq. F. R. S


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This paper, which professes to be a continuation of former researches on the same subject printed in the Transactions of the Royal Society, is divided into two chapters. In the first the author considers the nature of the law of those numbers in tables of mortality, which express the amount of persons living at the end of ages in regular arithmetical progression. He remarks that for short intervals the law approaches nearly to a decreasing geometrical progression, and that this must be the case whatever be the strict expression for the law of mortality, provided the intervals do not exceed certain limits. But he further remarks, that this property will be found to belong to very extensive portions of tables of mortality, and instances Deparcieux’s tables, where from the age of 25 to that of 45, the numbers living at the end of each year decrease very nearly in geometrical progression. Considering however the whole extent of such a table, it will be found that the ratio of this geometrical progression is not the same in all parts of the table. But before he enters on this consideration, the author draws some consequences from the hypothesis of a geometrical progression being the strict law of nature after a certain age. One of these is the equality of value of all life annuities commencing after that age. Another is, that the want of instances in history of persons living to very enormous ages (waving those of the patriarchs,) is no proof that such may not be the law of nature, as he shows by calculation, that out of 3,000,000 persons of 92, not more than one should on this supposition reach 192. This leads him to some general considerations on the causes of death, after which he resumes the consideration of the general law of the tables.