Nicholas Barbon

Nicholas Barbon
United Kingdom

Mr. Nicholas Barbon, a physician, founded in1680 the Fire Office in London, the first joint-stock company for fire insurance in London and perhaps the world. Renamed the Phoenix Office in 1705, initially it insured buildings but not furniture, fittings, or goods.

He conceived the idea of founding an insurance company to protect owners of homes and buildings against losses by fire. Appalled by the loss of property and the human suffering that grew out of the Great Fire of London, he had the courage and imagination to develop an institution whereby losses could be shared by those purchasing protection in his organization.

He recognized that service of an insurer should reach beyond the mere provision of indemnity in case of loss. He instituted the practice of maintaining a number of "water men in livery with badges"who would assist in extinguishing fires. His office originated the use of fire marks where properties it insured could be identified when fires occurred.

Mr. Barbon wrote copiously on questions of home and foreign trade. A monograph was written on his economic theories and he was elected a member of Parliament in 1690 and again in 1695.

He deserves the title, "father of fire insurance", because his office was the first private enterprise fire insurance company in the world. His signature appears on early policies issued by his company.