Memorializing Paul A. Samuelson: A Review of His Major Works, 1915-2009

By Ramrattan, Lall; Szenberg, Michael | American Economist, Fall 2010 | Go to article overview

Memorializing Paul A. Samuelson: A Review of His Major Works, 1915-2009


Ramrattan, Lall, Szenberg, Michael, American Economist


Introduction

We have lost the dean of American economists, the unrivalled leader of neoclassical economics on December 13, 2009. Paul Anthony Samuelson was born on May 15, 1915 in Gary, Indiana to his parents Frank Samuelson and Ella Lipton. The family moved to Chicago, where Paul attended the Hyde Park High School. He entered the University of Chicago at age 16 and took up economics after having heard a lecture on the Reverend T. R. Malthus. After graduating with a BA from there in 1935, he attended Harvard, where he earned an MA in 1936, and a PhD in 1941. He married a fellow student, Marion Crawford, in 1938, and after her death in 1978, he was married to Risha Clay Samuelson.

Samuelson's Ph.D. thesis became the celebrated Foundations of Economic Analysis published in 1947. A year later, he published his famous text, Economics. Those two works bracketed his contribution from the simple to the complex aspects of economics that were imitated by many and had educated over a generation of economists.

Samuelson started teaching as an instructor at Harvard in 1940, but after a month he moved to MIT as an assistant professor. While at MIT, he became an Associate Professor (1944), Professor (1947), and finally Institute Professor (1966). He also received honorary doctoral degrees from the University of Chicago (1961), Oberlin College (1961), Indiana University (1966), and East Anglia University (1966), and was a Ford foundation Research Fellow during 1958-1959. His numerous awards include the David A. Wells Prize in 1941 by Harvard University, the John Bates Clark Medal by the American Economic Association in 1947, and the Nobel Laureate Prize in economics by the Bank of Sweden in 1970 for his scientific contributions to economics.

Because he did not wish to compromise his thinking in economics, Samuelson turned down President Kennedy's requests to serve as the chair of the economic council. Samuelson, however, has been credited with educating the president on Keynesian economics, and he also was the one to encourage the tax cut that was implemented during Johnson's administration.

Goals of Economics

Samuelson's goal was to understand the "... behavior of mixed-economies of the American and Western European type" (Samuelson, CW, 1986, V. 3,728). His means to this goal was to be scientifically honest. He held that "... science consists of descriptions of empirical regularities" (Ibid., 772). Therefore, "... a good economist has good judgment about economic reality" (Ibid., 775). One should not wonder why he often refers to Thomas Kuhn, for Kuhn holds that "economic analysis advances discontinuously. After a great forward step, time must be taken to consolidate the gains achieved" (Samuelson, 1966, V. 2, 1140). Within this research mentality, Samuelson goes after reality with economic models, being well aware that "the science of economics does not provide simple answers to complex social problems" (Ibid., V. 2, 1325). Economics for him was different in degree but not in kind from the physical sciences: "All sciences have the common task of describing and summarizing empirical reality. Economics is no exception" (Ibid., V. 2, 1756). But unlike the falsificationist, he does not look at facts to terminate a theory. Rather, "in economics it takes a theory to kill a theory; facts can only dent the theorist's hide" (Ibid., V. 2, 1568).

Samuelson's representative definition of economics is: "the study of how people and society end up choosing, with or without the use of money, to employ scarce productive resources that could have alternative uses, to produce various commodities and distribute them for consumption, now or in the future, among various persons and groups in society. It analyzes the costs and benefits of improving patterns of resource allocation" (Samuelson, 1980, 2). We also see elements of production, distribution, consumption, and cost benefit analysis in his definition. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Memorializing Paul A. Samuelson: A Review of His Major Works, 1915-2009
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.