Great Economists Since Petty and Boisguilbert
Edited by Gilbert Faccarello and Heinz D. Kurz
Chapter 28: Jules Dupuit (1804–1866)
Jules Dupuit was born on 18 May 1804 in Fossano, in Piedmont, where his father was Inspecteur des finances. At the age of 18, he was admitted to the École Polytechnique in Paris. He then studied also in École des Ponts et Chaussées. From 1827 onwards, as engineer of the Ponts et Chaussées administration, he worked in the Département of Sarthe, and, from 1844, in Angers, where he had to deal with the floods of the River Loire. He started to collaborate with the Journal des économistes in 1849. In 1850 he became chief engineer in Paris, director of the municipal administration, and general inspector of the civil engineers in 1855. He died in Paris on 5 September 1866. Engineer and Economist The phrase “French ingénieurs économistes” usually designates mathematicians such as Antoine-Augustin Cournot as well as engineers like Dupuit, but their approaches are often different. The approach of the mathematicians is most of the time abstract: Cournot’s ambition was to develop a mathematical theory of wealth. Dupuit instead, like most engineers, started from concrete problems, for example, how to know whether a public investment – a bridge, a road – would be useful enough to justify its construction? Must it be financed by a toll and, if so, at which level should it be fixed? In order to find a solution to these problems, Dupuit used economic theory. He reasons in exactly the same way when dealing with the determining tolls or the distribution of water (Chatzis...
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