Wright, Elizur

Wright, Elizur ĭlīˈzər [key], 1804–85, American actuary and antislavery leader, b. near Canaan, Conn., grad. Yale, 1826. He taught (1829–33) mathematics at Western Reserve College. In 1833 he became corresponding secretary of the American Anti-Slavery Society, a post he left (1839) to assume editorship of the Massachusetts Abolitionist. While editing (1846–52) the Boston Weekly Chronotype he became interested in life insurance reform and began lobbying in the Massachusetts legislature. Through his efforts an act was passed (1858) compelling insurance companies to hold reserve funds to be applied against policies. Two later rulings—the nonforfeiture law of 1861 forbidding a company to appropriate the reserve funds and the legislation (1880) that requires companies to pay in cash the value of lapsed policies—were also directly due to Wright. He served (1858–66) as state supervisor for insurance legislation before taking positions as a private actuary. His vigorous campaigning in this field as well as his development of actuarial tabulations earned him the title “father of life insurance.”

See biography by P. G. Wright and E. Q. Wright (1937).

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