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History of Risk Assessment – Part I

History of Risk Assessment – Part I

By Marvin Rausand & Stein Haugen

The development of risk assessment is closely related to the development of reliability assessment. The two subjects have many concepts and methods in common, and it is therefore difficult to say what belongs to risk and what belongs to reliability. The origin of the word “risk” and its early usage is thoroughly outlined by Bernstein (1998). A thorough historical account of the more recent history of risk assessment is given by Zackmann (2014). Here, we give only some few highlights. We realize that our presentation is biased because its main focus is delimited to developments in Europe and the United States. Probabilistic risk assessment as we know it today had its root in the insurance (actuarial) discipline at the end of the nineteenth century. The Swedish actuary Filip Lundberg is considered to be the founder of mathematical risk theory. His first mathematical model for nonlife insurance was presented already in 1909, but was largely ignored till the Swedish professor Harald Cramér in 1930 developed his insurance risk theory based on Lundberg’s approach. In the following years, Harald Cramér made a series of important contributions to risk and reliability theory. To become a separate discipline, risk assessment had to wait well into the twentieth century. The book “Risk, Uncertainty, and Profit” (Knight 1921) was an impressing landmark. In this book, Knight defined risk as “measurable uncertainty.” Another seminal book, Industrial Accident Prevention: A Scientific Approach (Heinrich 1931), appeared 10 years later.


Risk assessment : theory, methods, and applications 2nd Edition

Marvin Rausand, Stein Haugen

Wiley 2020


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