Actuarial history: a repository

Yes, I’m putting this in Actuarial Politics, because I’m going to be grabbing some old, contentious issues (not only SOA v. the World… there’s plenty of stuff!) and putting it here.

I would like to do a followup to All Our Yesterdays by E.J. Moorhead.

He stopped at 1979 (when I was 5 years old!) and I think I’ll have enough stuff by 2029.

Hmmm, looks like I forgot to add to this.

Okay, here is my old slideshow (from January 2015) with the lawsuit-o-rama between the SOA, AAA, and CAS while the SOA was attempting a hostile takeover of the CAS

So, I basically didn’t grab all the threads with the lawsuits, etc. And I checked in the Internet Archive - it doesn’t seem that any specific subforums/threads were caught (which makes sense… they don’t want their spiders crawling through discussion forums, as they would get overwhelmed)

But that’s just as well. We don’t need to hang onto things that weren’t officially published.

That said, I do have copies of various published items from actuarial orgs. Let’s see how well this works.

Address of the SOA President, Ernest J. Moorhead
November 1970
“Exception Bade Them Speak”

Jack_Moorhead_SOA_Pres_Addr_1970.pdf (345.5 KB)

Let me quote:

It is a meditation on outspoken actuaries. Its purpose is to turn our
thoughts to controversialists and iconoclasts in this profession of ours,
to the part they play in keeping us attuned to our responsibilities and
alive to our opportunities.

“A man of singular contradictions; an idealist who was practical; a
zealot with an orderly mind; an indefatigable contender over small points
who rarely lost sight of the large ones.” The words “devastating energy”
are applied to him.

Who was he? Elizur Wright.

Or this: “He was actuary, lawyer, poet and Zoroastrian. He spoke nine
languages fluently. He published one volume of poetry and several of
prose. Actuarial students will do well to familiarize themselves with his
writings on subjects in which they are interested.”

Who was this man? Miles Menander Dawson, pioneer among consulting

And there’s more in his list. Check out the pdf.

Links from the actuarial societies on history:

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Link from CAS:

Miles Menander Dawson … I have or had some books from him in my collection. I should go buy some more.

Also, exams used to be far easier than they are today - like they didn’t even HAVE exams.

Found Gompertz’s letter from 1825:

It’s got tables and everything!


XXIV. 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

Benjamin Gompertz

Published:01 January 1825


Dear Sir, The frequent opportunities I have had of receiving pleasure from your writings and conversation, have induced me to prefer offering to the Royal Society through your medium, this Paper on Life Contingencies, which forms part of a continuation of my original paper on the same subject, published among the valuable papers of the Society, as by passing through your hands it may receive the advantage of your judgment.

:laughing: I’m just imagining the people taking upper level, true/false exams going “what the hell, those old guys didn’t even have to take exams!!”

I forgot I had done a blog post, incorporating much of the timeline:

Post is from September 2018:


This basically came out of nowhere. Well, not nowhere.


Now, this is an interesting one. The SOA & CAS are “educational” actuarial bodies — they provide the exams, credentials, etc. — and while they are U.S.-dominated, they operate internationally.

Then there’s the AAA (American Academy of Actuaries), which is the U.S.-only organization of actuaries, and it is usually the body that testifies to Congress, works with regulators, etc.

There’s the ASB – Actuarial Standards Board – which sets the ASOPs (Actuarial Standards of Practice).


And here’s my last actuarial brou-ha-ha (for now): the secrecy surrounding meetings of the AAA board, ASB, etc.

Again, I think this is something surrounding the proposed standards changes in pensions. While I think the ASOP changes are a good idea, it needs to be done in a transparent way.

There are other disputes ongoing (which I didn’t even address) about qualification standards for P/C actuaries (which was a semi-expected fallout after the SOA had tried to make its own P/C credential, and got thwarted by CAS… and maybe this will become moot with a merger between organizations, but the people questioning qualifications now are the regulators at the NAIC. Great work, guys!)

Hey guys, you know what you could do to dispell the impression that you’re trying to hide stuff? You could record it. And put it online. It’s cheap and easy. Just put them on YouTube, and if you’re concerned about comment, you can block comments on your channel and videos.

If you don’t want them that public, you’ve already got the machinery to post video on the site so that only members can see it — I know, because I access members-only stuff often enough.

This is gold. Thank you for sharing.

Nothing about “The History of Actuarial Message Boards”?

WELLLL I could try to see what links at the wayback machine I have (or I could try to get @Serena or @SpaceLobster could give us a few stories…)

It seems reasonable to weave in the online communities, etc.

So let’s start a timeline:

CAS Watercooler (or whatever): ???
Rebel Forum: 2001
rebranded to Actuarial Outpost: ???
DWS purchased AO: ??
[somewhere in here: the SOA’s desert, but just in passing… also SOA Engage, but also in passing]
AO died: fall 2020
goA: January 2020, fell quiet, came back with death of AO

/r/actuary: created Nov 2008 [I just looked] - might be able to get usage stats there, don’t know

Serena ran a BB I thought no through AOL or something. She then went to a free online forum that only allowed 100 threads. I participated in that because I was working in actuarial at the time. Also had an online actuarial bookstore so I had servers etc.
Some user named space lobster would post 100 blank threads, effectively wiping the site. So I offered to host the forum on my servers. That would’ve been about 2000 or so.

Dws took the site over in 2004.

Internet says the AO domain was registered in 04 as well. I don’t recall what it was before that.

We had a 5 year noncompete. In 09 there was some talk of setting up another site. I declined.

In 2019 some ao users raised the subject again and I figured 15 years was enough. We set it up shortly thereafter but few migrated so I turned it off.

I then approached dws to see if Serena and I could fix the problems on the ao. We were rebuffed. That very same week they fired Tom, and turned the site off, so I turned the lights back on again here.

Some of the history I’m happy to leave in the dust. Way too much past conflict, I’m too old and disinterested in that anymore.

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After CAS Water Cooler, SOA created a site that allowed anon’s and pseudonyms, from about 1997? to 2000?. That ended when some high-ups in the SOA considered the message board damaging to their, I mean, the SOA’s reputation.
SOA desert was made in 2000 or so. No life at all. Reputation intact!!

This is getting a bit farther afield, but in a discussion w/ the Tech & Modeling Sections about something we’ll be doing over the next year (I’ll probably announce on goA it when it’s live) – I pointed out that one of the big reasons you could get engagement on the Outpost, as opposed to SOA Engage/the desert and LinkedIn, is that there are no pseudonymous options.

I mentioned that their proposed discussion area would likely be dead as well, directly linked to one’s SOA account. You are not going to get any sort of interesting discussion going when people in an extremely small profession has to discuss everything with an attachment to their professional profile.

This doesn’t read right. I know what you’re saying, but if you take out the non-essential element “as opposed,” then it is the opposite of the truth.

“I pointed out that one of the big reasons you could get engagement on the Outpost is that there are no pseudonymous options.”

More accurate:
“I pointed out that one of the big reasons you could get engagement on the Outpost, as opposed to SOA Engage/the desert and LinkedIn, is that there were pseudonymous options.”

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Yeah, I got mixed up in all my negatives.

I’m not going to go back and correct my post, but this is what I meant.

Although it might keep some of the name calling out! But I definitely wouldn’t be posting during the work day if my boss could come and ask me why I was posting at such and such time during the day. And I sit enough at a computer during the day that I don’t want to do it after work.

And in case it’s not absolutely clear, I wasnt the original space lobster. Just a pale imitation trying to be edgy.

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