Table of Contents

Handbook on the History of Economic Analysis Volume I

Handbook on the History of Economic Analysis Volume I

Great Economists Since Petty and Boisguilbert

Edited by Gilbert Faccarello and Heinz D. Kurz

Volume I contains original biographical profiles of many of the most important and influential economists from the seventeenth century to the present day. These inform the reader about their lives, works and impact on the further development of the discipline. The emphasis is on their lasting contributions to our understanding of the complex system known as the economy. The entries also shed light on the means and ways in which the functioning of this system can be improved and its dysfunction reduced. Each Handbook can be read individually and acts as a self-contained volume in its own right. It can be purchased separately or as part of a three-volume set.

Chapter 61: Irving Fisher (1867–1947)

Harald Hagemann

Subjects: economics and finance, history of economic thought


Life Irving Fisher was praised by Schumpeter in his obituary as America’s “greatest scientific economist” (Schumpeter 1948 [1951]: 223). Fisher was born on 27 February 1867 in Saugerties-on-Hudson, New York, as the son of a clergyman. His mother Ella Wescott descended from an old New England family. Thus Fisher grew up in a religious environment which probably contributed to the missionary zeal that characterized his personal life. He graduated from the Smith Academy, St Louis in June 1884. A few weeks later his father died because of tuberculosis, just after Fisher had been admitted to Yale College. Fisher remained closely associated with Yale for the rest of his life. With his remarkable mathematical abilities, he graduated first in his class with a BA degree in 1888. Furthermore, he published poems and political commentaries and was a successful rower. Fisher remained at Yale for graduate studies mainly in mathematics and economics but also in philosophy and the sciences. His mentor was the physicist and mathematician Josiah Willard Gibbs. In economics he got stimulus from the industrial economist and later president of Yale University, Arthur Twining Hadley, who induced him to read the works of Francis Amasa Walker, the founding president of the American Economic Association. His main influence, however, was William Graham Sumner, with whose free market and Social Darwinist views he did not agree, but who suggested that he engage more in mathematical economics and study the newly published work Investigations on the Theory of Price by the two Austrians...

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