538 Life and Letters of Francis Galton
3. I fear I can't say whether permission to copy would be easily obtained ; I fancy most offices would insist on a member of their own staff being employed, as much of the information in the papers is confidential. 4. Application would really have to be made to each office. 5. The cost would probably depend on the time taken, which would vary with the accessibility of the material, some of the papers being stowed away in awkward places. 6. I would try to get samples if you like from my own office.
With regard to (4), (5) and (6) would it not be a good way to try to get the offices to combine to investigate the data at their disposal? If offices could be got to see that the data would be of practical use (which is the case) they would be more willing to agree, and would probably bear some or all of the copying expense. The difficulty is how to approach them. This might be done through the Institute of Actuaries, the Life Offices Association (a body which is a collection of Insurance Officials who meet for consideration in connection with practical routine) or the Life Offices Medical Officers' Association (a body formed from the medical examiners of assurance companies).
If the Institute of Actuaries could be induced to issue a circular to the offices asking if they would contribute, I think assurance companies would more willingly hand' over their particulars than to a private individual, even if it were known that the collected statistics would be investigated by private individuals.
I enclose a draft card which with slight alterations might be adopted. It will show the particulars you can get.
I will if you like mention the matter officially in my own office (the "Guardian "), but I fear we could do little for some months as we have our quinquennial valuation on hand which means that the whole staff is stopping late over that, and additional work is quite impossible at present. I could mention the matter to one or two people in other offices if you think a preliminary sounding would be a good thing. Of course, you will recognise that I am merely expressing a personal opinion in my letter, but I shall be only too glad to help you in any way I can.
Very faithfully yours, W.. PALIN ELDERTON.
On the basis of Mr Merton's suggestions Galton drew up an address to the Institute of Actuaries which ran as follows
To the President and Council of the Institute of Actuaries.
GENTLEMEN, Permit me to address you and call your attention to a serious actuarial need, namely of better data than are now available for computing the influence of family and personal antecedents on the longevity and health of individuals.
A vast quantity of appropriate and trustworthy material appears to be stored in Life Insurance Offices, out of which authenticated extracts might be furnished for the purpose of statistical discussion. (To avoid suspicion of breach of trust, names might be replaced in the Forms by register numbers, the keys to which would be confidentially used for the purpose only of determining relationships between persons assured.) A Form on which the extracts might be entered is enclosed in order to save lengthened explanation. It might doubtless be improved. I am assured that no person or Society would be more competent to arrange the details of such a: scheme, or to bring it more weightily before the notice of the various Life Insurance Companies, than your own.
My justification for interfering in the matter is that the desired information would be especially serviceable for my' own inquiries into what the University of London has now recognised under the title of "National Eugenics. On this account I am prepared to pay such moderate preliminary expenses as may be needed for an experimental trial, being not without hopes that the Insurance Companies may hereaftercontribute to what will be of use to themselves. In the event_ of a prima facie approval, I would ask the President and Council of the Institute of Actuaries to appoint a Committee to consider it in detail, with instructions to report on what it might be useful and feasible to obtain from Life Insurance Companies, on what would-be the probable cost of the extracts at the rate of so much per thousand, and on thee desirability of further action.