Paul Samuelson

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Paul Samuelson <tr><td colspan="2" style="text-align: center;">Image:Samuelson.gif
Born May 15, 1915
Gary, Indiana

<tr><th>Residence</th><td>Image:Flag of the United States.svg USA</td></tr><tr><th>Nationality</th><td>Image:Flag of the United States.svg American</td></tr><tr><th>Field</th><td>Economics</td></tr><tr><th>Institution</th><td>MIT</td></tr><tr><th>Alma Mater</th><td>Harvard University (PH.D.)
University of Chicago (B.A.)</td></tr><tr><th>Academic Advisor</th><td>Edwin Bidwell Wilson</td></tr><tr><th>Notable Students</th><td>Lawrence Klein
Robert C. Merton</td></tr><tr><th>Known for</th><td>Mathematical economics</br>Economic methodology
Revealed preferences theory
International trade theory
Economic growth theory
Public goods theory</td></tr><tr><th>Notable Prizes</th><td>John Bates Clark Medal (1947)
Nobel Prize in Economics (1970)</td></tr>

Paul A. Samuelson (born May 15, 1915, in Gary, Indiana) is an American economist known for his work in many fields of economics. He was awarded the John Bates Clark Medal in 1947 and Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel (more commonly known as Nobel Prize in Economics) in 1970.


[edit] Academic accomplishments

  • Received the degree of Bachelor of Arts from University of Chicago in 1935 (where studied under Knight and Viner)
  • Received degrees of Master of Arts in 1936 and Doctor of Philosophy in 1941 from Harvard University (where he studied under Schumpeter and Leontief)
  • A Social Science Research Council predoctoral fellow from 1935-1937
  • A member of the Society of Fellows, Harvard University, 1937-1940
  • A Ford Foundation Research Fellow from 1958-1959
  • Received honorary Doctor of Laws degrees from the University of Chicago and Oberlin College in 1961, and from Indiana University and East Anglia University (England) in 1966.
  • Received National Medal of Science, 1996
  • Received honorary Doctor of Social Sciences degree from Yale University in 2005.

[edit] Professional positions

  • Came to M.I.T. in 1940 as an Assistant Professor of Economics and was appointed Associate Professor in 1944.
  • Served as a staff member of the Radiation Laboratory from 1944-1945
  • Professor of International Economic Relations (part-time) at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in 1945.
  • Professor at M.I.T. in 1947 and is now an Institute Professor.
  • Guggenheim Fellow from 1948-1949.

[edit] Consultancy

  • The War Production Board and Office of War Mobilization and Reconstruction in 1945 (economic and general planning program)
  • The United States Treasury, 1945-1952
  • The Bureau of the Budget in 1952
  • The Research Advisory Panel to the President's National Goals Commission from 1959-1960
  • The Research Advisory Board Committee for Economic Development in 1960.
  • A member of the National Task Force on Economic Education from 1960-1961
  • A consultant to the Rand Corporation since 1949.
  • An informal consultant for the United States Treasury and the Council of Economic Advisors.
  • Was a consultant to the Federal Reserve Bank.
  • An Economic Advisor to Senator, candidate, and President-elect Kennedy, and later to President Lyndon B. Johnson
  • His consultation for the government brought him national recognition as an economic advisor.
  • In 1965 he was elected president of the International Economic Association.

[edit] Membership of honorary and professional organizations

  • A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • A fellow of the American Philosophical Society and the British Academy;
  • A member and past President (1961) of the American Economic Association
  • A member of the editorial board and past-President (1951) of the Econometric Society
  • A fellow, council member and past Vice-President of the Economic Society.
  • A member of Phi Beta Kappa.

[edit] Fields of interest

As professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Samuelson has worked in fields including:

[edit] Publications

Samuelson's book Foundations of Economic Analysis (1947, Enlarged ed. 1983), from his doctoral dissertation, is his magnum opus. Its purposes were to:

  • examine underlying analogies between central features in theoretical and applied economics and
  • propose how operationally meaningful theorems can be described with a small number of analogous methods (p. 3).

Thus, "a general theory of economic theories" (Samuelson, 1983, p. xxvi). The book showed how these purposes could be parsimoniously and fruitfully met in the language of the mathematics applied to diverse fields. The book proposes two general hypotheses as sufficient for its purposes:

  • maximizing behavior of agents (including consumers as to utility and business firms as to profit) and
  • economic systems (including a market and an economy) in stable equilibrium.

The chapter on welfare economics "attempt(s) to give a brief but fairly complete survey of the whole field of welfare economics" (Samuelson, 1947, p. 252). It also exposits on and develops what became commonly called the Bergson-Samuelson social welfare function. It shows how to represent (in the maximization calculus) all real-valued economic measures of any belief system that is required to rank consistently different feasible social configurations in an ethical sense as "better than," "worse than," or "indifferent to" each other (p. 221).

There are 388 papers to date in Samuelson's Collected Scientific Papers. Stanley Fischer (1987, p. 234) writes that taken together they are unique in their verve, breadth of economic and general knowledge, mastery of setting, and generosity of allusions to predecessors.

Samuelson is also author (and since 1985 co-author) of an influential principles textbook, Economics, first published in 1948, now in its 18th edition. The book has been translated into forty-one languages and sold over four million copies.

[edit] Miscellaneous

Stanislaw Ulam once challenged Samuelson to name one theory in all of the social sciences which is both true and nontrivial. Several years later, Samuelson responded with David Ricardo's theory of comparative advantage.

Famous Quotes:

"Economists have correctly predicted nine of the last five recessions." - Paul Samuelson

"Investing should be more like watching paint dry or watching grass grow. If you want excitement, take $800 and go to Las Vegas." - Paul Samuelson

[edit] Impact

Along with Kenneth Arrow, Samuelson is considered one of the founders of modern neoclassical economics. The following is an excerpt on the reasons for awarding him the Nobel Prize:

More than any other contemporary economist, Samuelson has helped to raise the general analytical and methodological level in economic science. He has simply rewritten considerable parts of economic theory. He has also shown the fundamental unity of both the problems and analytical techniques in economics, partly by a systematic application of the methodology of maximization for a broad set of problems. This means that Samuelson's contributions range over a large number of different fields.

[edit] Other prominent family members

Paul Samuelson is an uncle of the former Harvard President Larry Summers. According to the book Harvard Rules, Summers's father (himself a distinguished economist) changed his family name from Samuelson to Summers following the example of his oldest brother, who changed the name in order to sound less Jewish in a time when succeeding in the economic world was easier for those of other religions.

[edit] See also

[edit] Books by Paul Samuelson

v. 1 & 2, 1937-mid-1964 (1966)
v. 3., mid-1964-1970 (1970)
v. 4, 1971-76 (1977)
v. 5, 1977-1985 (1986)
v. 6 & 7, 1986- (in preparation)

[edit] References

  • Stanley Fischer, 1987, “Samuelson, Paul Anthony," The New Palgrave: A Dictionary of Economics, v. 4, Macmillan, pp. 234-41
  • Leonard Silk, The Economists New York : Basic Books, (1976).
  • Robert Sobel, The Worldly Economists New York: Free Press, (1980).

[edit] External links

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Paul Samuelson

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