Johann Jakob Kummer

Towards the end of the 19th century, Johann Jakob Kummer (1828-1913) served as director of the Federal Statistical Office and the Federal Private Insurance Office for many years. He was a leading figure in social welfare debates at the time and played an active role in shaping the legislative basis for health and accident insurance.

Kummer grew up in rural Bern and embarked on a career as pastor and liberal politician following his theology studies. He was a Protestant vicar until his election to the cantonal government of Bern in 1862. He headed the Education Department and was responsible for the expansion of the primary school and university systems in the canton of Bern. He was also responsible for a law of cultural conflict that prohibited the members of Catholic religious orders from teaching in primary schools. In 1873, Kummer retired from his executive office in order to assume the directorship of the Federal Statistical Office founded in 1860. In this position, he became was a driving force for the institutionalisation of social statistics. He supported Hermann Kinkelin's studies on the assistance fund sector in Switzerland and took charge of the mathematical and statistical conception of the census in 1880. In 1885, Kummer assumed the management of the newly founded Federal Private Insurance Office, which he presided until his retirement in 1904. During his tenure, he was in charge of the state supervision of private insurance companies, particularly in the area of life insurance. Kummer was one of the most important Swiss insurance experts in the early social welfare debates, alongside Kinkelin and the first federal actuarial mathematician Christian Moser, who was appointed on Kummer’s initiative. Kummer was committed to stronger state regulation in the assistance fund sector (see the calculation debates around 1900) and became a member of the advisory expert commission for the health and accident insurance law in 1893. Besides a number of statistical research papers, Kummer wrote ‘A History of Swiss Statistics’ published in 1885.

Literatur / Bibliographie / Bibliografia / References: Tanner, Jakob (1995), Der Tatsachenblick auf die „reale Wirklichkeit“: zur Entwicklung der Sozial- und Konsumstatistik in der Schweiz, in: Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Geschichte 45 (1995), S. 94-108. Lengwiler, Martin (2006), Risikopolitik im Sozialstaat. Die schweizerische Unfallversicherung 1870-1970, Köln.