Lewis Gompertz

Lewis Gompertz (c.1784[note 1] – 2 December 1861) was an English writer and inventor, and early animal rights and veganism advocate. He was a founding member, in June 1824, of the English Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals; later the RSPCA.[2] Gompertz was the younger brother of the mathematician and actuary Benjamin Gompertz and the poet Isaac Gompertz.[2]

Lewis Gompertz
Hampstead, London, England
Died2 December 1861 (1861-12-03) (aged 77)
Kennington, London, England
Occupation(s)Animal rights and veganism activist, inventor, writer
Notable workMoral Inquiries on the Situation of Man and of Brutes
Ann Hollaman
(m. 1809; died 1847)
  • Benjamin Gompertz (brother)
  • Isaac Gompertz (brother)


Gompertz was born into a large and wealthy family of London diamond merchants,[3] the fifth son of his father Solomon Barent Gompertz's (1729 – c.1807) second marriage.[2] Being Jewish, Gompertz and his siblings were not allowed to attend university and instead received an informal education.[3]

Gompertz was a vegan and opposed to humans intentionally using animals for human interests in any way.[3] He refused to wear leather or silk and declined to ride in coaches due to the suffering of the horses.[4][5] He was the inventor of a multitude of inventions—including the expanding chuck—many of them designed to reduce animal suffering.[6] In 1821, Gompertz invented an improved velocipede, an early form of bicycle. His machine was powered by pulling on the steering handles, which drove a rack and pinion mechanism, which in turn rotated the front wheel.[7]

He was one of the founding members for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to animals, attending its inaugural meeting in 1824.[3] He published his first book Moral Inquiries on the Situation of Man and of Brutes, in the same year, which laid out his ethical views on animals;[8] the book was also critical of capitalism and the oppression of women and praised Owenism.[2] Gompertz acted as the SPCA's second Honorary Secretary, before resigning in 1833, after the governing committee objected to Gompertz's promotion of "Pythagorean doctrines", which held that the feelings of animals and humans were of equal value. The committee had created a resolution that limited membership in the SPCA to Christians. Since Gompertz was a Jew, he was forced to resign.[3]

Gompertz went on to found the Animals' Friend Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which he ran until 1846, after which he resigned to care for Ann, his terminally ill wife. The society was welcoming to evangelicals and Quakers. His wife died in 1847[9] and he spent the remainder of his life writing and speaking about animal rights and welfare[2][10] and creating inventions.[3] In 1852, he published his second book on animals Fragments in Defence of Animals.[8]

He died from bronchitis at his home in Kennington, on 2 December 1861[11] and was buried in the graveyard of the local church.[2]

Selected publications

See also


  1. Some sources give Gompertz's year of birth as 1783.


  1. "GOMPERTZ Lewis". Cemetery Scribes. Retrieved 24 May 2020.
  2. Wolf, Lucien; Marsden, Ben (2004). "Gompertz, Lewis (1783/4–1861), animal rights campaigner and inventor". In Marsden, Ben (ed.). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/10934. Retrieved 22 April 2020.{{cite encyclopedia}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link) (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. Renier, Hannah (March 2012). "An Early Vegan: Lewis Gompertz". London Historians. Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  4. Preece, Rod (2009). Sins of the Flesh: A History of Ethical Vegetarian Thought. Vancouver, Canada: UBC Press. p. 263. ISBN 978-0-7748-5849-6.
  5. Preece, Rod. (2011). Animal Sensibility and Inclusive Justice in the Age of Bernard Shaw. UBC Press. p. 207. ISBN 978-0-7748-2109-4
  6. Gompertz, Lewis (1992). Singer, Peter (ed.). Moral Inquiries on the Situation of Man and of Brutes. Fontwell: Centaur Press. ISBN 9780900001376.
  7. See:
  8. For the SPCA and the 1824 publication, see Nash, Roderick (1989). The Rights of Nature: A History of Environmental Ethics. University of Wisconsin Press, p. 223.
  9. Hyamson, Albert M. (1942). "The Jewish Obituaries in the "Gentleman's Magazine"". Miscellanies (Jewish Historical Society of England). 4: 44. ISSN 2047-234X. JSTOR 29777107.
  10. Baker, Lawrence W. (21 April 2015). Animal Rights and Welfare: A Documentary and Reference Guide: A Documentary and Reference Guide. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9781610699433.
  11. "Lewis Gompertz, Deceased" (PDF). The London Gazette. 24 June 1862. Retrieved 22 April 2020.

Further reading

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