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

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


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.

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]

"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.

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.

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.

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]

See also


  1. ^ Lewin 2004.
  2. ^ "Fellow details". The Royal Society. Retrieved cite.citation{font-style:inherit}.mw-parser-output .citation q{quotes:"\"""\"""'""'"}.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-free a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-registration a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-subscription a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration{color:#555}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription span,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration span{border-bottom:1px dotted;cursor:help}.mw-parser-output .cs1-ws-icon a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output code.cs1-code{color:inherit;background:inherit;border:inherit;padding:inherit}.mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{display:none;font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error{font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-maint{display:none;color:#33aa33;margin-left:0.3em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration,.mw-parser-output .cs1-format{font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-left{padding-left:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-right{padding-right:0.2em}
  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.

External links

15 Annotations

Sjoerd  •  Link

"A contemporary of Evelyn's, the self-made scientist-businessman John Graunt, created the tools that eventually allowed people to understand just how smoke and fires and other components of the world around us affect health. A prosperous merchant and art collector who lost everything in the Great Fire, Graunt was a master of assembling and making sense of ordinary information. He laid the foundation for the ways of categorizing, counting and rendering facts and figures that would later change the way people thought about the connections between health and the surrounding world. In 1662, Graunt published a short book, Natural and Political Observations made upon the Bills of Mortality, that summed up his years of sorting and analyzing who died, where, when and how. In immediate recognition of this work, Charles II personally recommended that Graunt be admitted to the Royal Society that same year. "

Nix  •  Link

From Graunt's entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography:

. . . .

Graunt's place in the history of statistical enquiry is based upon his Natural and Political Observations

Ruben  •  Link

the original for most of what we know about Graunt is "Aubrey's Brief Lives", that everybody is repeating, being the only information we have, discounting Pepys notes and his own book about demography.
The original was posted by the UCLA at:

in Aqua Scripto  •  Link

A slightly differing URL: from
Michael Robinson on Fri 21 Apr 2006, 10:31 am | Link
John Graunt/Grant

For a website devoted to Graunt, including John Aubrey’s biography, see:-

Bill  •  Link

GRAUNT, JOHN ( 1620-1674), statistician; was appointed original member of Royal Society, after his publication of 'Natural and Political Observations ... made upon the Bills of Mortality,' 1661; falsely charged with being privy to the great fire of 1666.
---Dictionary of National Biography: Index and Epitome. S. Lee, 1906.

Bill  •  Link

Graunt, John, the celebrated author of "Observations on the Bills of Mortality," was born in Birchinlane, London, 24th April, 1620. He was brought up in the rigid principles of the puritans, and as he was intended for trade, he received no advantages from grammar education, but was barely qualified in writing and arithmetic for the business of a haberdasher. In this employment he gained by his good sense, and strict probity, the confidence and esteem of his fellow citizens so that he rose to all the offices of his ward; was a common-council man, and a captain and then a major of the train bands. His "Observations" first appeared in 1661, and with such success, that Louis XIV. of France adopted his plans for the regular register of births and burials, and Charles II. in proof of his general approbation, recommended him to the Royal society to be elected one of their members in 1661-2. In 1665 the third edition of his popular book was printed by the society's printer, and the author flattered, by the honors paid to his literary services, abandoned the business of shopkeeper, and in 1666 became a trustee for the management of the New river for the countess of Clarendon. In this new office, it has been reported by Burnet, that he was guilty of a most diabolical crime, by stopping all the cocks which conveyed water from Islington to London, the night before the great fire began, which consumed the city. The accusation, however, is false as he was admitted among the trustees 23 days after the conflagration happened; and the malevolent report arose only after his death, and probably owed its origin to his change of religious principles, as about 1667 he reconciled himself to the tenets of the church of Rome. He died 18th April 1674, and was buried in St Dunstan's church, Fleet street, attended by many respectable friends; and among them by sir William Petty, to whom he left his papers. A fifth edition of his book appeared in 1676, under the care of his friend; and it may be fairly inferred, that to this work and the perserving powers and inquisitive mind of the author, we are indebted for the science of political arithmetic, so ably treated afterwards by sir William Petty, Daniel King, Dr. Davenant, and other learned men.
---Universal biography. J. Lemprière, 1810.

Bill  •  Link

John Graunt, born in Birchin Lane, London, April 24th, 1620, bound apprentice to a haberdasher. He obtained for his friend Petty the professorship of music at Gresham College. He was captain of train-bands for several years. He was bred a Puritan, but turned a Socinian, and lastly became a Roman Catholic. F.R.S., February, 1661-62. He was recommended by the king, and Dr. Sprat writes, in his "History of the Royal Society": — "In whose election it was so farr from being a prejudice that he was a shopkeeper of London, that his Majesty gave this particular charge to his Society, that if they found any more such tradesmen, they should be sure to admit them all, without any more ado." He published his "Natural and Political Observations upon the Bills of Mortality" in 1662, and this book, which laid the foundation of the science of statistics, went through several editions during his lifetime. Afterwards it was edited and improved by Sir William Petty, who sometimes spoke of it as his own, which gave rise to Burnet's erroneous statement that he published his 'Observations on the Bills of Mortality' in the name of one Grant, a Papist." Graunt died at his house in Birchin Lane, April 18th, 1674.
---Wheatley, 1899.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

re: August 5, 1663
Terry Foreman on 7 Mar 2015 posted:

"Mr. Grant’s report in favour of Sir W. Petty’s vessel" The report was made at the Royal Society's meeting of 29 July. (L&M footnote)

There is a considerable amount of information concerning Sir William Petty's double-keeled boat in Birch's "History of the Royal Society" (vol. i.), summarized in a long footnote in "The Diary of Samuel Pepys: For the First Time Fully Transcribed", ed. Mynors Bright, Richard Griffin Baron Braybrooke, 1899, pp. 232-3 footnote.

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.