RSA300.com darwin wrote one of the greatest scientific books ever.
you could say that we underwrote it.
Charles Darwin was already well known in Victorian society when he began writing On the Origin of Species. Following publication of the journals he wrote aboard HMS Beagle, he had become, in today’s parlance, a star. Yet even as his theories emerged in his study, he was plagued by a certain anxiety. Society was more conser vative then.The suggestion that humans share ancestors with apes would, he feared, be branded as heresy. With so much on his mind, it is remarkable that he was able to write anything at all. But write he did, thanks in par t to the wonderful seclusion he achieved at Down House in Kent. And thanks also, we believe (though, admittedly in much smaller par t) to the protection he received from us. From 1844 onwards, the buildings at Down House and all their contents were insured by the Sun Fire Office. His many books, his journals and even his paper and pens – all were underwritten by the company that would become RSA. Ours was not a significant contribution to the biggest idea in the science of life. Of that we are in no doubt. But in the year that we celebrate our 300 th bir thday, we hope we deser ve this small liber ty. As for the eventual reaction to his work, Darwin need not have worried. On the day it was published in 1859, On the Origin of Species sold out. Controversial though it was, his book was acknowledged immediately as an outstanding contribution to the canon of scientific thought. Which leads us to conclude that in business, as in life, it is those best equipped who will prosper. From the epic to the ever yday, we continue to help the world’s people and businesses move forward. To learn more, visit rsa300.com
Underwriting progress since 1710 Portrait of the week
P resident Barack Obama of the United States said he wanted to know ‘whose ass to kick’ over the leaking of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. He said that if Mr Tony Hayward, the chief executive of BP, had worked for him then he would have fired him. Mr Hayward said that a containment cap on the well ruptured on 20 April was funnelling off 10,000 barrels of oil a day, more than half the amount now estimated to be leaking. Shares fell in the United States in reaction to disappointing employment figures; of the 431,000 jobs said to have been created in May, about 411,000 were temporary posts for 2010 census staff. A court in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India, sentenced eight people to two years’ jail on charges of negligence over a leak at a gas plant belonging to the American company Union Carbide that killed thousands in 1984. One of those sentenced was no longer alive. General Motors is recalling 1.5 million cars because of a risk of fire in the heated washer system.
Mr David Cameron, the Prime Minister, said in a speech that ‘in five years’ time the interest we are paying on our debt is predicted to be ‘around £70 billion’; this meant that of ‘every single pound you pay in tax, ten pence would be spent on interest’. Decisions on how to reduce the deficit ‘will affect every single person in our country’, he said. Mr George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, asked the public for ideas on public-spending cuts. Mr Osborne is to establish a so-called ‘star chamber’ before which departmental ministers will be required to justify their budgets. The new Office for Budgetary Responsibility is to produce its first independent assessment of financial forecasts on Monday. Fitch, the ratings agency, said that Britain needed to cut its deficit more quickly than the previous government set out in the Budget this April. The pound fell. Lord Myners, the City minister in the last government, said in the Lords: ‘There is nothing progressive about a government that consistently spends more than it can raise in taxation.’ Sir Terry Leahy, the chief executive of Tesco for
13 years, announced he would stand down in 2011. Tesco shares fell ninepence. BA cabin crew held their third five-day strike. Mr Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, said the government rejected ‘pay as you throw’ charges on dustbins, favouring the implanting of chips in dustbins to allocate vouchers to their owners according to the amount they recycled. Lady Thatcher visited Mr Cameron at 10 Downing Street.
I nquests began into the deaths of 12 people, including his twin brother, shot dead in west Cumbria by Derrick Bird, aged 52, who then shot himself. During hustings for the Labour party leadership contest, at the GMB union’s annual conference, Miss Diane Abbott, who received enough nomintions to enter the next round, attacked the ‘phoney populism’ of blaming immigrants for driving down pay; Mr David Miliband, Mr Ed Miliband, Mr John McDonnell and Mr Andy Burnham were there too. Mr McDonnell failed to receive enough nominations. Mr Ed Balls, the other candidate, had blamed Mr Gordon Brown, the former Prime Minister, whom he had told to start ‘talking about immigration, in the last year and a half’. Foreign spouses unable to speak English would no longer be admitted to Britain, Mrs Theresa May, the Home Secretary, announced. Two Algerians died when a police car left the road in St Albans. Rio Ferdinand, the England football captain, injured a knee ligament in training and will be unable to play in the World Cup; Steven Gerrard took over as captain. The Duke of Edinburgh, 89 on 10 June, had an operation for carpal tunnel syndrome. The Prince of Wales, 61, rested for three days because of a chest infection. Sixty passengers escaped when a train bound for Oban was derailed near the Falls of Cruachan.
I srael’s navy shot dead four Palestinians wearing diving gear off the coast of Gaza. Israeli forces arrested the 1,200-ton motor vessel Rachel Corrie, bound for Gaza with protesters and relief supplies. There were no injuries. Two tons of cocaine bound for Europe, with a notional street value of $1 billion, were seized in The Gambia. In Afghanistan seven Americans, two Australians and a French legionnaire were killed on the same day. North Korea shuffled its cabinet, with promotion for Mr Chang Song-taek, a brother-in-law of Mr Kim Jong-il said to favour the succession of Kim Jong-un (Mr Kim’s son) as Supreme Leader. Brazil’s annual rate of growth rose to 9 per cent in the first quarter of 2010. Spanish public-sector workers struck for a day against 5 per cent pay cuts. A gift shop at Australia’s Parliament House withdrew 200 mugs intended to mark President Obama’s visit because his first name was spelt ‘Barrack’; in any case the visit was cancelled because of the oil-leak crisis. CSH
THE SPECTATOR 12 June 2010 9