Biographies of Authors

Browse the biographies of authors from the Books pages:

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For more biographies of famous economists, see the Biographies section in the The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics.

Bagehot, Walter (1826-1877)
    Walter Bagehot, a British journalist and early editor of "The Economist," specialized in institutional economic issues. He had a particular interest in central banks, interest rates, and the money supply. His writings on how monetary institutions (today called Central Banks) behave and why, and how they interact with "credit cycles" (today called business cycles) influenced later institutions from the Federal Reserve System to the International Monetary Fund.

Bastable, Charles F. (1855-1945)
    Charles Francis Bastable, Professor of Political Economy at the University of Dublin, was a proponent of free trade. His works included expositions on international trade and clarifications of Ricardo's and Mill's ideas. His classic text, Public Finance, first published in 1892, remains the basis for modern textbook coverage of government taxation, debt, and expenditure, and budgeting.

Bastiat, Frédéric (1801-1850)
    Frédéric Bastiat was a French economist and legislator (Chamber of Deputies). He became active in politics and in persuasive writing late in his life, and contributed lively, pithy essays and pamphlets illustrating the many ways in which government protections and limitations to free trade often go awry because of failing to consider their economic side-effects.

Bentham, Jeremy (1748-1832)
    Jeremy Bentham, British social philosopher and political activist, was the founder of the word "utility" in economics. Although in the period immediately after his time the word took on a connotation better read as "usefulness", Bentham himself directly defined utility as private happiness, commensurate with the modern economic usage. He associated man's striving for this happiness as a matter of the incentives provided by the balancing of pain versus pleasure. He also coined the phrase maximum felicitas—the "greatest happiness for the greatest number" (An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, 1789). He later used this simplified standard to evaluate political policy decisions. However, his earlier applied-economics writings (such as Defence of Usury, 1787) didn't try to force that standard of policy evaluation, but instead focused on what would today be considered marginal utility and marginal productivity. He was a close friend of James Mill (John Stuart Mill's father: Bentham's own early precocity in Latin and law possibly influenced James's famously rigorous upbringing of John Stuart). Bentham was also an early, adamant spokesman for pervasive human rights.

Böhm-Bawerk, Eugen v. (1851-1914)
    Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk, Austrian economist at the University of Vienna, and Austrian finance minister, made the modern interemporal theory of interest rates possible in his work Capital and Interest. His second book in this series of two, The Positive Theory of Capital, continued on to study the accumulation and influences of capital, proposing an average period of production. This work on capital stood in contrast to the contemporaneous work of John Bates Clark on the marginal productivity of capital, and set off a great debate in economics. Although marginal productivity theory proved more accurate, Böhm-Bawerk's highlighting the importance of thinking clearly about interest rates and their intertemporal nature permanently changed economic theory. In the process, he also helped highlight errors in the economic foundations of Socialism, as proposed by Rodbertus and Marx. Böhm-Bawerk was influenced by Carl Menger; Ludwig von Mises and Joseph Schumpeter were Böhm-Bawerk's students. See also John Bates Clark.

Cairnes, John Elliot (1823-1875)
    John Elliot Cairnes, Irish economist, held the Whately Chair in Political Economy at Trinity College in Dublin, and subsequently taught at Queen's College Galway and University College in London. He was a follower of Ricardo and Mill. His work clarified the principles, logical, and scientific methods behind their thought. See also: Richard Whately.

Clark, John Bates (1847-1938)
    John Bates Clark, American economist, was the first to develop marginal productivity theory, using it to explore the distribution of income between returns to labor and capital in a market economy. His work influenced other economists, including Frank Knight. He taught at Columbia University. The prestigious John Bates Clark award is given every other year to an economist under age 40, in his honor. See also Eugen v. Böhm-Bawerk.

Heckscher, Eli F. (1879-1952)
    Eli F. Heckscher was a Swedish economist who, along with his student, Bertil Ohlin, explored trade in goods along with the factors of production—labor and capital—used to produce them. His writings on international trade included historical studies of economic policies that failed because the systems eschewed free trade, such as The Continental System and Mercantilism.

Hobson, John Atkinson (1858-1940)
    John A. Hobson was an English historian and journalist with an interest in economics. Although his lack of understanding of markets and marginal analysis led to his being ostracized by his contemporary academic economics circles, his thoughtful critique of the justifications of imperialism and his work taking the topic back to first principles stands today as an example of respect for all peoples throughout the world. He was a member of the Fabian Society, and although he wrote for several socialist journals, he was an independent thinker who argued that capitalist goals had been perverted by special interests and misdirected governments.

Hodgskin, Thomas (1787-1869)
    Thomas Hodgskin, officer in the British Navy who left and subsequently worked for The Economist, was one of the earliest popularizers of economics for audiences of non-economists. He gave lectures on free trade, the corn laws, and labor to "mechanics institutes" (which we might now call adult education groups) even before Jane Haldimand Marcet.

    Hodgskin passionately cared about the concerns of laborers after his experience with the maltreatment of sailors. His discussions of the labor theory of value followed up on David Ricardo and pre-dated John Stuart Mill's expositions on similar themes. He was later cited by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels in Marx's Capital.

Hollander, Samuel. (1937-)
    Samuel Hollander, economic historian, was born in London and studied at the London School of Economics and Princeton University. He has taught all over the world, from Canada to Australia, and received numerous awards. His work on classical political economy includes detailed studies of Adam Smith, David Ricardo, John Stuart Mill, and Thomas Robert Malthus.

Hoxie, Robert F. (1868-1916)
    Robert F. Hoxie was a U.S. economist at the University of Chicago with a particular interest in trade and labor unions. In 1914, he published his seminal article on the subject in the JPE, around which he also based a subsequent book. By characterizing and distinguishing the different kinds of unions, Hoxie made sense of the welter of contradictory views of them. Although he died before he was able to complete his own research agenda, his work created an academic stir and gave rise to the fruitful scientific study of the topic during the 20th century.

Hume, David (1711-1776)
    David Hume was a Scottish philosopher, historian, and political economist, personal friend of Adam Smith, who was a proponent of free trade. His works highlighted the neutrality of money and the errors of the mercantilists (whose flawed theories in favor of increased exports in order to build up a stock of gold remain the foundations of many public policies even today).

Knight, Frank H. (1885-1972)
    Frank Knight went from a farming childhood in Illinois to teaching at the University of Chicago, where he influenced many modern economists, including Nobel Laureate James Buchanan. His works on risk and uncertainty created a foundation for economic theory while repeatedly drawing on evidence and the everyday experiences of business owners, families, and ethical considerations.

Kuznets, Simon (1901-1985)
    Simon Kuznets, Russian-born Nobel Prize winner (1971) who studied at Columbia University under Wesley Claire Mitchell and went on to teach at Harvard, specialized in national income data. His interests in the subject ranged from international differences and tax laws, to accounting questions, to theoretical issues such as the use of accurate national income data in studying the business cycle and savings behavior. His work influenced economists across the board, from Milton Friedman to Franco Modigliani.

Laughlin, J. Laurence (1850-1933)
    Head of the U. of Chicago Economics Department, founder of the Graduate School of Business there, and founder of the Journal of Political Economy, J. Laurence Laughlin brought his interest in monetary systems and the practical workings of free markets to general academic attention in the United States. He brought Thorstein Veblen to the University of Chicago.

Leggett, William (1801-1839)
    American journalist and founder of the Plaindealer, William Leggett began his career as a poet and gravitated toward writing impassioned editorials in support of individual liberties and private property rights while working with William Cullen Bryant at the Evening Post.

Leontief, Wassily (1906-1999)
    Wassily Leontief, Russian-born Nobel Prize winner (1973) who studied in Berlin, specialized in input/output analysis, the process of production and how to model it succinctly, and the composition of goods. His work included the famous "Leontief Paradox"—the finding that at least when looking at raw data, the United States appeared to be exporting "labor-intensive" goods, contrary to classical international trade theory as elaborated on since David Ricardo created the framework of comparative advantage. His emphasis on using data and evidence to keep theorizing relevant and down-to-earth influenced both classical and Keynesian economists of his day. Leontief taught at Harvard and, until his recent death, at New York University.

List, Friedrich (1789-1846)
    German historian who wrote in favor of protective tariffs and trade retaliations between industrial nations, even if they maintain free trade within each country. During the 1820s, he lived in Pennsylvania, where he contributed to the pro-tariff debates in the United States. His economic arguments were centered around refutations of Adam Smith.

Macaulay, Lord (Thomas Babington) (1800-1859)
    Lord Macaulay, born Thomas Babington, was an English historian, peer, politician, and poet. He was an active opponent of slavery, a supporter of education and equality in India, and instrumental to parliamentary reform to increase representation of cities that had become unrepresented relative to rural areas during the rapid industrial growth. He authored a five-volume work on the History of England, and wrote numerous clear-minded, critical essays.

Mackay, Charles, LL. D. (1814-1889)
    Charles Mackay was a famous song-writer and poet, journal editor and colleague of Charles Dickens, and a reporter whose joy was to take the wind out of the sails of cheats and frauds of all kinds. His lively writing style and ability to document the facts of extraordinary financial bubbles and political upheavals from the South Sea Bubble to tulipomania to the Crusades influenced reporters and economists from his time to this day.

Malthus, Thomas Robert (1766-1834)
    Thomas Robert Malthus received instant renown for his youthful publication of the timely Essay on the Principle of Population, the first edition of which became the topic of debate everywhere from street corners to academic halls. His intellectual honesty led him quickly to refine his work, backing it up in subsequent editions with facts and clearer exposition, and removing from it some of the original simplistic explanations which were too-easily misunderstood. His lifetime economic work on population growth around the world was a fine example of using empirical evidence to test economic theory, which influenced economists from his day to the present. He held the first professorship to include the title of "political economy" (at East India Company College, Haileybury), during which time he published other works, including Principles of Political Economy.

Marcet, Jane Haldimand (1769-1858)
    Jane Haldimand Marcet, home-educated, popular English expository author in chemistry, botany, religion, and economics. Her works on economics (sometimes anonymously published to pass as works by male authors) elucidated with a satirical, light-hearted, popular touch matters addressed more abstrusely by Smith, Ricardo, Mill, Malthus, and other economists of her day. Her most renowned work, Conversations on Chemistry (1806), was so enticing and clearly written that it is famous for inspiring the youthful, dyslexic Michael Faraday, apprenticed at the bookbinder's shop where it was being produced, to a lifetime of dedicated broad vision that ultimately became the foundation of electromagnetic technology today. Her subsequent expositions of economics, among other subjects, were equally inspiring and widely-read. Late in life, she began to revise her explanations of simplistic labor/wage matters, rewriting some of her earlier essays to accord with more modern developments.

Marshall, Alfred (1842-1924)
    Alfred Marshall, English economist at the University of Cambridge, reconciled many neoclassical economic concepts and introduced many of the modern terms and diagrams used today by economists. His teaching covered marginal utility, elasticity of demand, production costs, and consumer surplus.

Mill, James (1773-1836)
    James Mill, Scottish-born son of a cobbler and education-oriented mother, wrote on the British corn laws, free trade, comparative advantage, David Ricardo, Thomas Robert Malthus, and the history of India. His influential and clarifying writings, and the circle of thinkers he gathered around him, are frequently overshadowed by the demanding education he gave his precocious son, John Stuart Mill, who later famously described his father in his autobiography.

Mill, John Stuart (1806-1873)
    John Stuart Mill, English philosopher and economist, was rigorously home-schooled by his father. He was an apt student who read Greek and Latin before age 10, and quickly continued his studies with logic, history, and economics. His youth was spent in the company of the intellectual elite of his day, including Jeremy Bentham, who interested him in Utilitarianism. His fearlessness and meticulousness in joining rational debate both in person and in print drew him to write on a range of topics in philosophy, logic, and social issues. He adopted some of the Utopian socialist perspective, arguing that workers could become entrepreneurs, without endorsing full centralized ownership or planning.

Milton, John (1608-1674)
    John Milton, English poet, historian, and essayist, preferred poetry but later in life was drawn to publish pamphlets and works defending religious and civil liberty, freedom of the press, and practical reforms. His works reflect many of the swirling religious conflicts of his day. Although he did not intend his pamphlets to be on economics, essays such as his "Areopagitica," a plea for eschewing the government licensing of publishers, are excellent examples of applied economics principles.

Mises, Ludwig von (1881-1973)
    Ludwig von Mises, Austrian-born economist who taught at the University of Vienna and later at New York University, wrote many works on two related economic themes: 1. monetary economics, inflation, and the role of government, and 2. the differences between government-controlled economies and free trade. His influential work on economic freedoms, their causes and consequences, brought him to highlight the interrelationships between economic and non-economic freedoms in societies, and the appropriate role for government.

Newcomb, Simon (1835-1909)
    Simon Newcomb, Canadian-born, home-educated astronomer and mathematician who supervised the revamping of the telescopes at the United States Naval Observatory, plotted the orbits of Uranus, Neptune, and the moon, and taught at Johns Hopkins University, had an ongoing skill and interest in illuminating complex theories and evidence in plain language. He brought this refreshing skill repeatedly to economics, which was in the process of becoming increasingly mathematical during his academic years.

Quesnay, Francois (1694-1774)
    François Quesnay, French, self-educated physician in the Court of Louis XV, elaborated on the analogy between the flowing circulation of blood in the human body and the flow of money as it exchanges for economic services and goods in the producing and consuming population. His graphical depiction of this in a "Tableau Economique" helped economists explain and keep track of the accounting of goods and services, which aided economists in explaining the flaws of the mercantilists' claims that countries that exported and accumulated gold benefited themselves. The French economists, or les économistes as they termed themselves, came to be called the physiocrats.

Rae, John (1845-1915)
    John Rae is best known for his 1895 Life of Adam Smith, later reprinted with an introductory "Guide to John Rae's Life of Adam Smith" by Jacob Viner. (N.B. There are two other contemporary John Raes: A different economist by the name of John Rae, 1796-1872, Scottish author of Statement of Some New Principles on the Subject of Political Economy; and an arctic explorer by the name of John Rae, 1813-1893.)

Read, Leonard E. (1898-1983)
    Leonard Read, American founder and president of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), had a lifelong devotion to educating people about freedom in down-to-earth ways that would stick with them. His most famous essay, "I, Pencil," was first published in the December 1958 issue of The Freeman. It has influenced generations of economists, including Milton Friedman, through its charm and clarity.

Ricardo, David (1772-1823)
    David Ricardo, born in London of parents recently emigrated from Amsterdam, where he was educated as a youth in yeshivas. He returned to London and made a large fortune as a stockbroker, and eventually was elected to Parliament; but he also enjoyed reading about economics. He was ultimately inspired by Smith's The Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, and, using his background in the stock market and his natural incisive ability, actively disagreed with the mercantilist views on gold accumulation and the pricing of gold. He eventually took on some of Smith's inconsistencies, and in the process developed the role of comparative advantage in international trade. He is one of the early describers of what has become known as "Ricardian equivalence"—the condition that real interest rates are influenced by government spending, but not necessarily by the way the government finances that spending (via borrowing or taxation). His contributions to the economics of rent, monetary theory, and the theory of value influenced economists of his day and since.

Rogge, Benjamin A. (1920-1980)
    Benjamin A. Rogge, educated at Northwestern University, taught at Wabash College, Indiana. He had a gift for rendering into clear English the vital principles of economics, all with a touch of unforgettable humor. He opposed compulsory, state-funded education and sought market alternatives. Among his intellectual mentors was Nobel laureate F. A. Hayek.

Say, Jean-Baptiste. (1767-1832)
    Jean-Baptiste Say, French economist and journalist, was a much-translated author and proponent of free trade. He was the originator of the theory that "supply creates its own demand" (called Say's Law of Markets), which was Mill's restatement of Say's "products are paid for with products." The idea that business booms are associated with temporary overproduction that adjusts itself because of the incentives for producers to sell their output was one implication of Say's Law.

Senior, Nassau W. (1790-1864)
    Nassau W. Senior, British economist, taught at Oxford, and worked on the marginal aspects of inputs to production. He argued that capital accumulation is a cost of production, and drew careful distinctions between wealth and welfare. His contributions to the Whig party as an advisor included arguments about work hours and wages. Along with Edwin Chadwick, he wrote the revised Poor Law Commissioners' Report of 1834. See also: Richard Whately.

Smith, Adam (1723-1790)
    Adam Smith, Scottish economist and philosopher, personal friend of David Hume, who studied the social forces giving rise to competition, trade, and markets. While professor of logic, and later professor of moral philosophy at Glasgow University, he also had the opportunity to travel to France, where he met François Quesnay and the physiocrats; he had friends in business and the government, and drew broadly on his observations of life as well as careful statistical work summarizing his findings in tabular form. He is viewed as the founder of modern economic thought, and his work inspires economists to this day. The economic phrase for which he is most famous, the "invisible hand" of economic incentives, was only one of his many contributions to the modern-day teaching of economics.

Spencer, Herbert (1820-1903)
    Herbert Spencer lived long enough to witness both the hey-day of classical liberal reform in the mid-nineteenth century—the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846 which ushered in a period of virtual free trade in Britain—and the gradual decline of classical liberalism towards the end of the nineteenth century. It is the latter which helps explain the grumpiness expressed in his later writings such as the collection of essays entitled Facts and Comments (1902).

    Spencer was born in Derby, England in 1820 to a strict, non-conformist family, and died in 1903. As a young man, Spencer worked for the leading free trade journal of the day, The Economist, from 1848-1853 during which time his first significant book appeared—Social Statics (1850). Here he worked with James Wilson, one of the most consistent advocates of laissez-faire in Britain, Nassau Senior, one of the leading members of the classical school of political economy, and Thomas Hodgskin, a radical individualist author.

    Much of the rest of his life was spent working on an all-encompassing theory of human development based upon the ideas of individualism, utilitarian moral theory, social and biological evolution, limited government, and laissez-faire economics. In his later writings, most notably The Principles of Sociology (1876-1896), he drew a sharp distinction between the peaceful productivity of free market societies ("the industrial type of society") and the social conflict, political privilege, and proclivity to war and empire inherent in societies with "over-legislation" ("the militant type of society"). In The Man Versus The State (1884) Spencer argued that the politics of vested interests and the increasing demand for economic regulation would lead to a new form of "slavery" and a "rebarbarization" of society. The rise of pro-interventionist "New Liberalism" in the 1880s and 1890s and the outbreak of the Boer War in 1899 confirmed his worst fears.

Taussig, Frank William (1859-1940)
    Frank W. Taussig, American economist, taught at Harvard, and worked on international trade. His articles and books on tariffs, both in theory and in careful empirical studies of industries and history, became the foundation of how modern trade theory is taught today. He was editor of the Quarterly Journal of Economics.

Tracy, Antoine Louis Claude Destutt de (1754-1836)
    Antoine Louis Claude Destutt de Tracy, French political philosopher, supported private property rights and classical liberal economic policies. While a member of the Senate, he opposed Napoleon, and also spoke out against the subsequent constitutional monarchy, and in support of American-style laissez-faire republicanism. He coined the term "ideology" while he was at the Institut National.

Turgot, Anne Robert Jacques. (1727-1781)
    Jacques Turgot, French economist and statesman, was the administrator for Limoges under Louis XV, and Minister of Finance under Louis XVI (1774 to 1776). During his tenure he lifted controls on grain, reduced tariffs, eliminated guilds, and substituted monetary taxes for the required labor of the corvée. His political efforts got him dismissed, but his earlier economic writings introduced capital as a factor of production to the French school, and carried the seeds of marginal valuation. He was a friend of Adam Smith's and the Marquis de Condorcet.

Walker, Francis Amasa (1840-1897)
    Francis Amasa Walker was an economics professor at Yale University, and served as president of the American Statistical Association and American Economic Association, and for a time, MIT. (He was also a general during the Civil War.) In his work, he is generally credited with having demolished the "wages fund" theory by sorting out the roles of rent, wages, and profits, paving the way for John Bates Clark. He had particular interests in the organization of the firm, the role of the entrepreneur, monetary theory, and bimetallism. His Political Economy was one of the most widely used textbooks of the 19th century prior to Marshall.

Whately, Richard (1787-1863)
    Richard Whately, Archbishop of Dublin and Professor of Political Economy at the University of Oxford following Nassau Senior, brought logical clarity to the previously murky relationship between morals and the underpinnings of economics. His broad interests ranged beyond religion and economics into logic, politics, social rights, and literary reviews. He was succeeded at Oxford by J. E. Cairnes.

Wicksell, Johan Gustaf Knut. (1851-1926)
    Knut Wicksell, Swedish economist, was one of the founders of modern macroeconomics. His work focused on real and nominal interest rates, the marginal productivity of capital, and determinants of the price level. He elaborated on ideas from economists as broad-based as Jevons, Böhm-Bawerk, and Clark, and influenced economists from Irving Fisher to John Maynard Keynes to James Buchanan. [For a few online academic essays putting Wicksell's work in perspective, see the New School: Wicksell's Optimal Production Period.]

Wicksteed, Philip H. (1844-1927)
    Philip Wicksteed, English philosopher, theologian, and economist, made important advances in economic method and in the theory of marginal productivity. He also emphasized the subjectivism of costs. His use of mathematics and graphical analysis, coupled with a lively writing style, made these tools more accessible to students. He influenced many 20th century economists, particularly those working in the Austrian tradition.