Robert Fogel July 1, 1926 - June 11, 2013 Nobel-Winning Economist Examined Slavery's Collapse in U.S

Article excerpt

Robert Fogel, a Nobel Prize-winning economic historian who used empirical data in innovative and iconoclastic ways, most notably to dispute long-held assumptions about why slavery collapsed as an institution in the United States, died June 11 at a rehabilitation facility in Oak Lawn, Ill. He was 86.

The cause was pneumonia, said his daughter-in-law Suzanne Fogel. Mr. Fogel, a Chicago resident, spent much of his career at the University of Chicago and directed its Center for Population Economics.

Mr. Fogel shared the 1993 Nobel Prize for Economic Sciences with Douglass North, then of Washington University in St. Louis. Both winners were on the 1960s vanguard of a field known as cliometrics, which merges economic theory with statistical analysis of hard numbers raked from the past; Clio is the muse of history in Greek mythology.

Mr. Fogel drew on historical documents and then used modern computing systems to process the information. The Nobel citation credited him with "having renewed research in economic history by applying economic theory and quantitative methods in order to explain economic and institutional change."

"Fogel was one of the intellectual pioneers and certainly the most visible member of a generation of economic historians who transformed the discipline from what had been narrative history into history informed by economic theory and statistical methods," said Barry Eichengreen, an economics and political science professor at the University of California at Berkeley.

The son of Russian immigrants, Mr. Fogel grew up in New York City during the Depression and became a Communist Party activist while an undergraduate at Cornell University in the 1940s. He eventually left the party, but a radical streak persisted in his professional life.

Mr. Fogel's "Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Negro Slavery" (1974), co-written with economic historian Stanley Engerman, postulated that slavery was a thriving institution on the eve of the Civil War. …


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