Paul Samuelson, R.I.P.
R.I.P Paul Samuelson, Pre-eminent American Economist
Paul Samuelson, America's most eminent and influential twentieth century economist, died this week at 97. Samuelson was the first American recognized with a Nobel Prize for his contributions to economic theory and the second economist to receive the award.
Samuelson's "Economics," published in 1948, quickly became the most popular introductory economics text book in the world and made Samuelson a millionaire many times over. It was translated into 20 languages and sold 50,000 copies a year half a century after it was first published. Samuelson once said "I don't care who writes a nation's laws--or crafts its advanced treatises--if I can write its economics text books." His text book introduced generations of economists to the ideas of John Maynard Keynes who theorized in the 1930s that modern market economies can become trapped in depression and need a strong push from government spending and tax cuts, in addition to expansionary monetary policy. Thanks to Keynes and Samuelson, the prevailing view of economists no longer accepted the 19th century view that markets would cure unemployment without government intervention.
Samuelson has been called the "father of modern economics" because of his voluminous theoretical papers and books and because several of his students at M.I.T. received Nobel Prizes-- Franco Modigliani, Lawrence Klein, George A. Akerlof, Robert F. Engle, Robert C. Merton, Joseph E. Stiglitz and Paul Krugman.
Samuelson advised President Kennedy on economic policy and turned down Kennedy's offer to make him chairman of his council of economic advisers because he wanted to remain free to express his disagreement with government economic policies with which he disagreed. Nevertheless he continued to provide advice to Kennedy and to Johnson after Kennedy's assassination.
Samuelson was born in Gary, Indiana, into a middle class Jewish family. He attended University of Chicago as an undergraduate and Harvard for his PhD. He accepted an instructorship at Harvard, but left for a better offer of an assistant professorship at M.I.T. where he built the premier economics department in academia. Robert M. Solow, Samuelson's colleague at M.I.T. once said about Harvard's economics department at the time Samuelson left for M.I.T. "You could be disqualified for a job if you were either smart or Jewish or Keynesian. So, what chance did this smart, Jewish Keynsian have?"
Samuelson was one of the few who rate a page one and full page obituary in the New York Times. The NYT obituary is linked below.
12-14-09 NY Times Paul Samuelson, Nobel Economist Dies at 94
- Paul Samuelson Dies at 94
Paul A. Samuelson, the first American Nobel laureate in economics and one of the foremost academic economists of the 20th century, died Sunday at his home in Belmont, Mass. He was 94.
- Paul Samuelson - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Royal Academy said he "has done more than any other contemporary economist to raise the level of analysis in economic theory." Economic historian Randall Parker calls him the "father of modern economics", and the NYT the foremost modern economist