Great Economists Since Petty and Boisguilbert
Edited by Gilbert Faccarello and Heinz D. Kurz
Chapter 23: Johann Heinrich von Thünen (1783–1850)
The works of several great economists had at first a relatively small impact on the development of economics because they were born into an environment that was not ready for them. Johann Heinrich von Thünen’s work is a particularly glaring case in point. The first edition of Part I of his magnum opus Der Isolierte Staat was published in 1826 and a second edition in 1842, while the first section of Part II, containing marginal productivity theory, was published in 1850. Translations in French, Russian and Italian followed soon, whereas English editions had to wait until 1960, 1966 and 2009. However, despite the path-breaking achievements contained in Thünen’s works, up until now their full content has not yet been secured, as Samuelson (1983) emphasized. Life and Works Thünen was born in Canarienhausen in Northern Germany in 1783. He inherited a strong interest in, and talent for, mathematics and at an early age received private lessons in calculus. An agricultural professional training followed from 1799 to 1802 before Thünen went to the Agricultural Academy of Lucas Staudinger near Hamburg for one year. Noting the different farming systems in the area, he got an idea of the structure of agriculture around a central market and, at the age of 19, put forward his first primitive Isolated State Model in the short treatise Description of the Agriculture in the Village of Gross-Flottbeck. He then spent a year in Albrecht Thaer’s famous Agricultural Institute in Celle. Both institutes propagated the...
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