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Graunt, John

1. Dates
Born: London, 24 April 1620
Died: London, 18 April 1674
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 54
2. Father
Occupation: Merchant
Henry Graunt was a draper, i.e., merchant.
No information on financial status.
3. Nationality
Birth: English
Career: English
Death: English
4. Education
Schooling: No University
Some formal "English Learning."
No university education.
Apprenticed to a haberdasher of small wares, 1636-41.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Calvinist, Catholic
Puritan, later (toward the end of his life) converted to Catholic church. There was apparently a period in between when Graunt was a Socinian.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Demography
Graunt is known for his sole published work, his Observations on the bills of mortality, 1662, a work which first established the uniformity and predictability of many important biological phenomena when taken in large numbers-- such things as the greater number of female babies, the longer lifespans of females, the high mortality among infants.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Merchant
Like his master he became a haberdasher of small wares, 1641-74. He was a member of the Draper's company.
Note that Graunt was a prominent and influential man in London. I don't know if he received any remuneration for the offices below, but they indicate his position. He went through various city offices, 1658-74: Common-council-man, two years; Foreman of the Wardmote inquest, 69-70; Captain of the Trained Band, several years.
Toward the end of his life he was a governor of the New River Company.
8. Patronage
Types: Court Official, Government Official, Aristrocrat, Gentry
Charles II specially recommended him as an original member of the Royal Society.
Graunt dedicated the Observations to John Lord Roberts, Lord Privy Seal. He dedicated the second edition (also 1662) to Sir Robert Moray, and this led to his election into the society.
He was employed by Ormond to recruit Walloon weavers living near Canterbury and to settle them in Ireland.
He was a trustee for Sir William Backhouse in the New River Company.
Petty offered him money to rebuild his house after the fire of London. (This doesn't sound like patronage to me; I don't list it. Petty was his close friend, and Graunt did things for Petty. Thus in 1650 his reputation in the city stood behind Petty's appointment to the Gresham chair of music.)
9. Technological Involvement
Type: None
Note that he was said to be involved in Petty's proposal for constructing a double-bottomed ship, but I am avoiding this sort of tenuous connection.
10. Scientific Societies
Membership: Royal Society
Informal Connections: Intimate friendship with Petty. They shared many ideas on political statistics, and Petty has been claimed as the real author of the Observations (though that allegation appears not to be accepted now). A friend also of Aubrey and Pepys.
Royal Society, 1662-74. Council, 1664-6.
  1. Dictionary of National Biography (repr., London: Oxford University Press, 1949-50), 8, 427-8. Biographia Britannica, 1st ed. (London, 1747-66), 4, 2262-7.
  2. O. Dick, ed., Aubrey's Brief Lives, pp. 114-15. DA447 .A3A82 D.V. Glass, "John Graunt and his Natural and Political Observations," Notes and Records of Royal Society, 19, 63-100.
  3. Anthony Wood, Athenae oxonienses (Fasti oxonienses is attached, with separate pagination, to the Athenae), 4 vols. (London, 1813-20), 1, 711; 4, 218. By quick perusal I think Wood's account of Graunt is taken word for word from Aubrey.
  4. C.H. Hull, a biographical sketch in Economic Writings of . . .
  5. Petty, 2 vols. (New York, 1899), 1, xxxiv-viii.
  6. Peter Buck, "Seventeenth Century Political Arithmetic: Civil Strife and Vital Statistics," Isis, 68 (1977), 67-84.
  7. Peter Laslett, "Introduction" to The Earliest Classics: John Graunt and Gregory King (in the series Pioneers of Demography), (Gregg International Publishers, 1973).
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. Walter F. Wilcox, introduction to Graunt, Natural and Political Observations, (Baltimore, 1939), pp. iii-xiii.
  2. _____, "The Founder of Statistics," Revue de l'Institut International de Statistique, 5 (1937), 321-8.
  3. Ian Sutherland, "John Graunt, a Tercentenary Tribute," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, 126A (1963), 537-56.
Compiled by:
Richard S. Westfall
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
Indiana University

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1995 Al Van Helden
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