Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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WRIGHT, Elizur, reformer, born in South Canaan, Connecticut, 12 February, 1804; died in Medford, Massachusetts, 21 November, 1885. His father, Elizur (1762-1845), was graduated at Yale in 1781, and became known for his mathematical learning and devotion to the Presbyterian faith. In 1810 the family removed to Tallmadge, Ohio, and the son worked on the farm and attended an academy that was conducted by his father His home was often the refuge for fugitive slaves, and he early acquired anti-slavery opinions. He was graduated at Yale in 1826, and taught in Groton, Mass In 1829-'33 he was professor of mathematics and natural philosophy in Western Reserve college, Hudson, Ohio. Mr. Wright attended the convention in Philadelphia in December, 1833, that formed the American anti-slavery society, of which he was chosen secretary, and, removing to New York, he took part in editing the " Emancipator." He conducted the paper called " Human Rights" in 1834-'5, and the "Quarterly Anti-Slavery Magazine" in 1835-'8, and through his continued opposition to slavery incurred the enmity of its advocates. His house was once besieged by a mob, and an attempt was made to kidnap him and convey him to North Carolina. He removed to Boston in 1839, and became editor of the "Massachusetts Abolitionist." For several years he was connected with the press, and in 1846 he established the "Chronotype," a daily newspaper which he conducted until it was merged in the "Commonwealth" (1850), of which he was for a time the editor. Mr. Wright was twice indicted and tried for libel, in consequence of his severe strictures on the liquor interests while publishing the "Chronotype," and again in 1851 for aiding the rescue in Boston of Shadrach, a runaway slave. Between 1853 and 1858, besides editing the "Railroad Times," he gave his attention to invention and mechanics, constructing a spike-making machine, a water-faucet, and an improvement in pipe-coup-ling. He patented the last two, and manufactured them for a short time. In 1853 he published "Life Insurance Valuation Tables" (2d ed., revised and enlarged, 1871), and in 1858 he secured an act of the Massachusetts legislature to organize an insurance commission, on a basis that required the annual valuation of the policy liabilities of all life-insurance companies in the state. He was appointed insurance commissioner of Massachusetts under this act, which office he held until 1866. He obtained the passage of the Massachusetts non-forfeiture act of 1861, and also its substitute in 1880, which was embodied with some change in the insurance codification bill of 1887. He devised a new formula for finding the values of policies of various terms, now known as the "accumulation formula," and, in order to facilitate his work, invented and afterward patented (1869) the arithmeter, a mechanical contrivance for multiplication and division, based on the logarithmic principle. Afterward he became consulting actuary for life-insurance companies. He was a delegate to the convention of 1840, which formed the Liberty party and nominated James G. Birney for the presidency, and edited "The Free American" in 1841. He was a promoter of the convention at Philadelphia on 4 July, 1876, which organized the National liberal league to support state secularization, and was the second president of the league, being twice re-elected. He was a member of the Forestry association, was instrumental in obtaining the Massachusetts forestry act of 1882, and labored for a permanent forest preserve. He wrote an introduction to Whittier's "Ballads, and other Poems" (London, 1844): and published a translation in verse of La Fontaine's "Fables" (2 vols., Boston, 1841 ; 2d ed., New York, 1859); "Savings Bank Life Insurance, with Illustrative Tables" (1872) ; " The Polities and Mysteries of Life Insurance" (1873); and "Myron Holley, and what he did for Liberty and True Religion," a contribution to anti-slavery records (1882).
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