Date of Passing: 04/12/2000
Alf Pollard, statistician, actuarial scientist and demographer, a member of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia since 1969, died on 4 December 2000. An active sportsman, it was perhaps fitting that he should die at 84 years of age after a game of tennis. His death occurred five weeks after that of his wife Pearl (nee Cross). They are survived by six children; one, Professor John Pollard, being a member of the Academy.
Alf was born in Melbourne and brought up on Norfolk Island. He was a Sydney University Medallist in Mathematics. Family financial circumstances then forced him to seek work with the result that his career covered radar work during the War, actuarial work with MLC, and actuarial science, statistics and demography after his appointment as Professor of Economic Statistics at Macquarie University in 1966. His career at every stage spanned academic and business interests, earning two Masters Degrees and a PhD while with MLC, and publishing his monthly Australian Economic Trends until his death. At Macquarie University he changed the way that actuarial scientists come into being, by establishing the Actuarial Studies program, the first university program in the world to have its graduates recognised by the international actuarial professional bodies (although now, as a result of this pioneering endeavour, commonplace). He also began the first Australian undergraduate course in demography. After his retirement he returned to business, becoming Chair of MBF and, until his death, Chair of Citicorp Life. He played an active civic role, serving on the Council of Macquarie University, as Founding Governor of the Sydney Eisteddfod Foundation, Chair for 15 years of the City of Sydney Cultural Council, and, for 30 years, Honorary Secretary of Wesley Central Mission.
His greatest fame were his publications, which earned him election to the Academy, and which continued throughout both business and university careers. They cover acoustic research, mathematical statistics, demography, stochastic actuarial processes, the assessment of university students, medical insurance, renal dialysis, health insurance, the economics of multiphasic screening, superannuation, and a range of social commentary.
His 1948 essay for the Rhodes Prize of the Institute of Actuaries (London), ‘The measurement of reproductivity’, Journal of the Institute of Actuaries (74, 1948), dealt mathematically with what is now called ‘the two-sex problem in demography’ and made him known internationally. His ‘Methods of forecasting mortality using Australian data’, Journal of the Institute of Actuaries (75, 1949), first detected the Australian mortality crisis of the 1960s when rates actually deteriorated. Together with John Pollard, he wrote in 1969 ‘A stochastic approach to actuarial functions’, Journal of the Institute of Actuaries (95, 1969), which fundamentally changed the teaching of actuarial mathematics everywhere. Another important paper in this area was ‘The interaction of mortality and morbidity’, Journal of the Institute of Actuaries (107, 1980).
After his return to academic life he also turned his interests and methodologies to the study of fertility, resulting in ‘Estimating parity progression rates from Australian official statistics’ and ‘A component analysis of Australian fertility’ both in the Transitions of the Institute of Actuaries of Australia and New Zealand (1975). In later years there were more social commentaries on unemployment, job creation, the family, retirement and other topics. In all, he published ten books.
His was a busy and interesting life, much of it devoted to music, sport, and charities. It was studded with awards and prizes, including a DSc in 1982. He was Sole Commissioner for the 1973 Federal Inquiry into Pension Updating and a member of the 1975-76 New South Wales Inquiry into State Taxation. His death is a loss to universities, especially their demography programs, the wider world and the Academy.