Characterisation, especially by Letters 537
particular diseases. What is A.B.'s expectation of life? The inheritance of various types of disease is a subject on which there is very little medical literature and that not of a kind from which a numerical estimate of duration of life can be based. The present system by which Life Insurance Companies vaguely select the better lives by aid of their medical officers is wholly out of date, and even if it can be made profitable to the companies is not just to the insured. Every life has its individual expectation, and its corresponding premium, and from the standpoint of the insured it is unfair to reject a life because the insurer is too ignorant, or too inert, to obtain the knowledge requisite to insure it at a reasonably approximate rate. The fact is that insurance companies as now run are in the bulk commercial enterprises, having little regard for the needs of the population as a whole, unless those needs are such as with little scientific inquiry can be turned to easy profit. The time is ripe for the State to take over not only the insurance of the handworker, but of the whole community. It possesses in its records of births and deaths material from which, with labour and scientific oversight, an approximate picture could be made of how the entire population in its classes and families lives and dies. Such must be the basis of any insurance scheme fair to the individual, whatever be his health or his family history. And if there must be a profit made out of life insurance, as there certainly is at present, it is surely best that it be made by the State, rather than by commercial companies. The State would at least enforce the medical examination of annuitants as well as of the wouldbe insured.
Galton often referred to the importance of measuring the expectation of life with due regard to the susceptibility of the family to various types of disease which have high mortality rates at special ages. He considered it not only of value for scientific life insurance, but also fundamental for a right development of Eugenics. He consulted on the matter the well-known actuary Mr W. Palin Elderton, who at a meeting of the Sociological Society had stated that possibly the insurance offices had material for the measurement of the heredity of disease. Mr Elderton, after a very careful consideration of various proposals, suggested an appeal to the Institute of Actuaries.
42, RUTLAND GATE, S.W. January 22, 1905.
DEAR MR ELDERTON, If I could see my way a little further I should be glad to take steps to give effect to your suggestion about obtaining Eugenic data from Insurance Offices.
Can you help me with a little information? 1. Are the records kept for any considerable time after the death of the person insured? 2. What size number of them could be in likelihood obtained? 3. Could permission be easily got to have them copied? 4. If so, to whom should I apply? 5. What should you imagine would be the cost per 100 of obtaining copies? 6. Could I get 2 or 3 samples (without names)? Very faithfully yours, FRANCIS GALTON.
January 25, 1905.
DEAR MR GALTON, I think I had better deal with each of your questions separately 1. The records are kept for various periods depending on the practice of the particular office; in some cases for more than thirty years after death. 2. If you could get many offices to join, you would be able to take out thousands of cases, some records, however, giving little information.
P G III 68