A Personal Tribute to Henri Theil

By Mundlak, Yair | Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics, January 1, 2003 | Go to article overview

A Personal Tribute to Henri Theil


Mundlak, Yair, Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics


The work of Henri Theil, including a biographical account of his professional activity, has been well documented (see Baldev and Koerts). This footnote adds a personal account of my initial professional awareness of his work and reputation that goes back to the beginning of my empirical work in Israel after returning from my studies in Berkeley at the end of 1956. The first contact was his book on aggregation, which came out in 1954. This was followed later on by his article on specification error (1957) and various aspects of forecasting that came out in his 1958 book. That book and a series of articles made the term "Munich business test" a buzzword at the time. These works overlapped with my interests, and I found them to be pertinent and valuable.

At about the same time, I learned about the impact Theil was having on the profession. First it was from Yehuda Grunfeld, who had returned to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem from his studies at the University of Chicago somewhere around the end of 1957. He was in Chicago when Theil visited the Department of Economics during the 1955-1956 academic year. I heard a similar story years later from Irving Hoch. There are several subjects that come to mind that illustrate how his influence inspired other work: specification error and production function estimation, the virtue of aggregation, simultaneous equation, and production function estimation. Also, it seems that Theil was instrumental in importing Koyck's work on distributed lags to Chicago (see also Baldev and Koerts, chapter 4). …

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