John Graunt

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John Graunt
JohnGraunt (cropped).png
Born(1620-04-24)April 24, 1620
DiedApril 18, 1674(1674-04-18) (aged 53)
Nationality England

John Graunt (24 April 1620 – 18 April 1674) was one of the first demographers, though by profession he was a haberdasher.

Haberdasher person who sells small articles for sewing

In the United Kingdom, a haberdasher is a person who sells small articles for sewing, such as buttons, ribbons and zippers; in the United States, the term refers instead to a retailer who sells men's clothing, including suits, shirts, and neckties.



Born in London, the eldest of seven or eight children of Henry and Mary Graunt. His father was a draper who had moved to London from Hampshire. In February 1641, Graunt married Mary Scott, with whom he had one son (Henry) and three daughters. He became a freeman of the Drapers' Company at age 21.

London Capital of the United Kingdom

London is the capital and largest city of England and the United Kingdom. Standing on the River Thames in the south-east of England, at the head of its 50-mile (80 km) estuary leading to the North Sea, London has been a major settlement for two millennia. Londinium was founded by the Romans. The City of London, London's ancient core − an area of just 1.12 square miles (2.9 km2) and colloquially known as the Square Mile − retains boundaries that follow closely its medieval limits. The City of Westminster is also an Inner London borough holding city status. Greater London is governed by the Mayor of London and the London Assembly.

Title page of the first edition of Graunt's Observations on the Bills of Mortality (1662). Graunt Observations.jpg
Title page of the first edition of Graunt's Observations on the Bills of Mortality (1662).

He worked in his father's shop until his father died in 1662, and became influential in the City. He was able to secure the post of professor of music for his friend William Petty in 1650. He served in various ward offices in Cornhill ward, becoming a common councilman about 1669–71, warden of the Drapers' Company in 1671 and a major in the trained band. [1]

William Petty English scientist, philosopher, statistician and economist

Sir William PettyFRS was an English economist, physician, scientist and philosopher. He first became prominent serving Oliver Cromwell and the Commonwealth in Ireland. He developed efficient methods to survey the land that was to be confiscated and given to Cromwell's soldiers. He also remained a significant figure under King Charles II and King James II, as did many others who had served Cromwell.

"Observations", 5th ed., 1676. Graunt - Natural and political observations, 1676 - 204.tif
"Observations", 5th ed., 1676.

Graunt, along with William Petty, developed early human statistical and census methods that later provided a framework for modern demography. He is credited with producing the first life table, giving probabilities of survival to each age. Graunt is also considered as one of the first experts in epidemiology, since his famous book was concerned mostly with public health statistics.

Census Acquiring and recording information about the members of a given population

A census is the procedure of systematically acquiring and recording information about the members of a given population. This term is used mostly in connection with national population and housing censuses; other common censuses include traditional culture, business, supplies, and traffic censuses. The United Nations defines the essential features of population and housing censuses as "individual enumeration, universality within a defined territory, simultaneity and defined periodicity", and recommends that population censuses be taken at least every 10 years. United Nations recommendations also cover census topics to be collected, official definitions, classifications and other useful information to co-ordinate international practices.

Life table table which shows probability of death

In actuarial science and demography, a life table is a table which shows, for each age, what the probability is that a person of that age will die before his or her next birthday. In other words, it represents the survivorship of people from a certain population. They can also be explained as a long-term mathematical way to measure a population's longevity. Tables have been created by demographers including Graunt, Reed and Merrell, Keyfitz, and Greville.

Epidemiology is the study and analysis of the distribution, patterns and determinants of health and disease conditions in defined populations.

His book Natural and Political Observations Made upon the Bills of Mortality (1662 Old Style or 1663 New Style) used analysis of the bills of mortality (weekly statistics of deaths) in early modern London as Charles II and other officials attempted to create a system to warn of the onset and spread of bubonic plague in the city. Though the system was never truly created, Graunt's work in studying the rolls resulted in the first statistically based estimation of the population of London. His work ran to five editions by 1676.

Old Style and New Style dates changes in calendar conventions from Julian to Gregorian

Old Style (O.S.) and New Style (N.S.) are terms sometimes used with dates to indicate that the calendar convention used at the time described is different from that in use at the time the document was being written. There were two calendar changes in Great Britain and its colonies, which may sometimes complicate matters: the first was to change the start of the year from Lady Day to 1 January; the second was to discard the Julian calendar in favour of the Gregorian calendar. Closely related is the custom of dual dating, where writers gave two consecutive years to reflect differences in the starting date of the year, or to include both the Julian and Gregorian dates.

Bills of mortality

Bills of mortality were the weekly mortality statistics in London, designed to monitor burials from 1592 to 1595 and then continuously from 1603. The responsibility to produce the statistics was chartered in 1611 to the Worshipful Company of Parish Clerks. The bills covered an area that started to expand as London grew from the City of London, before reaching its maximum extent in 1636. New parishes were then only added where ancient parishes within the area were divided. Factors such as the use of suburban cemeteries outside the area, the exemption of extra-parochial places within the area, the wider growth of the metropolis, and that they recorded burials rather than deaths, rendered their data incomplete. Production of the bills went into decline from 1819 as parishes ceased to provide returns, with the last surviving weekly bill dating from 1858. They were superseded by the weekly returns of the Registrar General from 1840, taking in further parishes until 1847. This area became the district of the Metropolitan Board of Works in 1855, the County of London in 1889 and Inner London in 1965.

Charles II of England 17th-century King of England, Ireland and Scotland

Charles II was king of England, Scotland, and Ireland. He was king of Scotland from 1649 until his deposition in 1651, and king of England, Scotland and Ireland from the 1660 Restoration of the monarchy until his death.

The erudition of the Observations led Graunt to the Royal Society, where he presented his work and was subsequently elected a fellow in 1662 with the endorsement of the King. [2] He was chosen as a member of the council in November 1664 and represented the society at various meetings.

Royal Society National academy of science in the United Kingdom

The Royal Society, formally The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, is a learned society and the United Kingdom's national Academy of Sciences. Founded on 28 November 1660, it was granted a royal charter by King Charles II as "The Royal Society". It is the oldest national scientific institution in the world. The society fulfils a number of roles: promoting science and its benefits, recognising excellence in science, supporting outstanding science, providing scientific advice for policy, fostering international and global co-operation, education and public engagement. It also performs these roles for the smaller countries of the Commonwealth.

His house was destroyed in the Great Fire of London at which point he was a manager of the New River Company, and he encountered other financial problems leading eventually to bankruptcy. His daughter became a nun in a Belgian convent and Graunt decided to convert to Catholicism at a time when Catholics and Protestants were struggling for control of England and Europe, leading to prosecutions for recusancy. [3] He died of jaundice and liver disease at the age of 53. John Aubrey reported that he was "a pleasant facetious companion and very hospitable" and noted that his death was "lamented by all good men that had the happinesse to knowe him." [4]

Tribute to Graunt's pioneering work was paid by Sir Liam Donaldson in 2012 on the tenth anniversary of the Public Health Observatories. [5]

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  1. Lewin 2004.
  2. "Fellow details". The Royal Society. Retrieved 2014-07-27.
  3. Lewin, C. G. (2004). "Graunt, John". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography .
  4. Aubrey, John (1696). Brief Lives. pp. 272–4.
  5. "Speech by Chief Medical Officer regarding the ten year anniversary of the Public Health Observatories". Archived from the original on 29 February 2012. Retrieved 13 March 2012.