Francis Ysidro Edgeworth

Francis Ysidro Edgeworth

A Portrait with Family and Friends

Lluís Barbé

Lluís Barbé has recreated the background and life of Francis Ysidro Edgeworth through a fascinating exercise of reconstruction that succeeds in shaping the first detailed biography ever published of this major economist and statistician. Originating from previously unexplored letters and documents kept in archives and registers of Ireland, England and Catalonia, Edgeworth’s relationships with his academic fellows – including Sully, Jevons, Marshall, Galton, Pearson, Walras, Pantaleoni, I. Fisher, Pareto, Keynes – are thoroughly depicted. Stemming from undiscovered primary sources, this book also reveals a close insight into the academic world of the period 1875–1925 in the fields of economics and statistics.

Introduction

Lluís Barbé

Subjects: economics and finance, history of economic thought

Extract

WHY A BIOGRAPHY OF FRANCIS YSIDRO EDGEWORTH? A book-sized biography of the economist and statistician Francis Ysidro Edgeworth (1845–1926) is a worthy endeavour for three reasons. First, there is a series of articles portraying Edgeworth: Bonar (1926), Keynes (1926), Price (1926), Bowley (1934), Hildreth (1968), Kendall (1968), Stigler (1978), Hicks (1984b), Creedy (1986), Newman (1987) and Mirowski (1994). However, there is no complete book about his life. Second, over time historians of economic thought have come to pay greater attention to Edgeworth’s work. As just a foretaste of this interest, I could mention that though in Edgeworth’s times his scientific work was relegated to the background due to Alfred Marshall’s predominance and Karl Pearson’s and Maynard Keynes’s lack of generosity, his work is now indispensable for grasping the genesis of current thinking in economics. Moreover, knowledge of Edgeworth’s life supplies a vivid portrait of the personal and intellectual relationships amongst the marginalist and non-marginalist economists of those times, including Jevons, Marshall, Foxwell, Walras, Pantaleoni, Pareto, Wicksell and Keynes. Third, a more personal reason is that Edgeworth’s mother was Catalan: Rosa Florentina Eroles. The only thing known about her, when I started my research, was that she was the daughter of a Catalan refugee in London (Keynes, 1926) whose name was Antonio. According to a note from Lord Holland in December 1831, he was a general who participated in an expedition against Ferdinand VII of Spain and was very likely a close relative of the Baron of Eroles, the well-known...