Also found in: Financial.
Wright, Elizur (ĭlīˈzər), 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).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
Wright, Elizur(1804–85) abolitionist, insurance reformer; born in South Canaan, Conn. After graduating from Yale he taught in the early 1830s at Western Reserve (Ohio), but hostility toward his abolitionist activism led him to resign. Moving to New York, he helped found and became secretary of the New York Anti-Slavery Society (1833), edited its publications, and resigned (1839) to serve briefly as editor of a Massachusetts abolitionist journal. In 1846 he founded and became editor of The Weekly Chronicle (later purchased by the Free Soil Party); in this capacity, and later, as Massachusetts' insurance commissioner (1859–66), he fought for and won the enactment of insurance reforms that had wide impact on the U.S. insurance industry, including those that required companies to maintain adequate reserves. Although his reforms got him forced from his state office position by the industry, he worked as an actuary for insurance companies. He was also active in conserving the natural environment.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.