Great Economists Since Petty and Boisguilbert
Edited by Gilbert Faccarello and Heinz D. Kurz
Chapter 39: William Stanley Jevons (1835–1882)
William Stanley Jevons (1835–1882) was in every sense a pioneer of neoclassical economics. He is perhaps best known as an enthusiastic proponent of the use of mathematics in economics and for his successful introduction of a marginal utility analysis of exchange, being closely followed by Menger and Walras. Yet over his short life he made many original contributions to other areas of economics as well as a wide range of other disciplines. After spending two years at University College London, where he largely concentrated on chemistry and botany, he was offered the position of assayer to the new mint in Sydney, Australia. In view of the failure of his father’s firm in 1847, this offer was financially attractive and Jevons arrived in Sydney in 1854, where he remained for five years. He returned to England and University College London in 1859, this time concentrating on logic, mathematics and political economy. Following a period as tutor at Owens College, Manchester, in 1866 Jevons became Professor of Logic and Mental and Moral Philosophy and Cobden Professor of Political Economy at Owens College. Ten years later he became Professor of Political Economy at University College London, resigning this post in 1880. He drowned while swimming near Hastings, on the south coast of England. Jevons displayed a restless curiosity and astonishing capacity for original thought. During his time in Sydney, Jevons became a pioneer social statistician, meteorologist (building an experimental machine to produce different types of cloud and writing on the climate of...
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