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… at 94.

Excerpts from the New York Times obituary:

… His technical work — especially his discipline-shattering Ph.D. thesis, immodestly titled “The Foundations of Economic Analysis” — taught professional economists how to ply their trade.

… His most influential student was John F. Kennedy, whose first 40-minute class with Mr. Samuelson, after the 1960 election, was conducted on a rock by the beach at the family compound at Hyannis Port, Mass. Before class, there was lunch with politicians and Cambridge intellectuals aboard a yacht offshore. “I had expected a scrumptious meal,” Mr. Samuelson said. “We had franks and beans.”

… He left high school at age 16 to enter the University of Chicago. “I was born as an economist on Jan. 2, 1932,” he said. That was the day he heard his first college lecture, on Thomas Malthus, the 18th-century British economist who studied the relation between poverty and population growth. Hooked, he began taking economics courses.

The University of Chicago developed the century’s leading conservative economic theorists, under the later guidance of Milton Friedman. But Mr. Samuelson regarded the teaching at Chicago as “schizophrenic.” This was at the height of the Depression, and courses about the business cycle naturally talked about unemployment, he said. But in economic-theory classes, joblessness was not mentioned.

“The niceties of existence were not a matter of concern,” he recalled, “yet everything around was closed down most of the time. If you lived in a middle-class community in Chicago, children and adults came daily to the door saying, ‘We are starving, how about a potato?’ I speak from poignant memory.”

… In 1940, Harvard offered him an instructorship, which he accepted, but a month later M.I.T. invited him to become an assistant professor.

Harvard made no attempt to keep him, even though he had by then developed an international following. [Robert] Solow said of the Harvard economics department at the time: “You could be disqualified for a job if you were either smart or Jewish or Keynesian. So what chance did this smart, Jewish, Keynesian have?”…

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3 Responses to “Paul Samuelson Dies…”

  1. Tom Says:

    How many hundreds of thousands (millions?)of us first studied economics using his textbook?

  2. Stephen Karlson Says:

    Foundations is still a useful supplementary text for graduate price theory classes. He didn’t quite have the envelope properties of Lagrangian functions in their simplest form, but he did correctly understand that the same problems in convex analysis recurred all over economics.

  3. Tom Says:

    Is his basic intro text still out there in marketplace? (Probably in its 50th edition by now, if it’s still around…)

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