Great Economists Since Petty and Boisguilbert
Edited by Gilbert Faccarello and Heinz D. Kurz
Chapter 97: Richard Ferdinand Kahn (1905–1989)
Richard Kahn was Maynard Keynes’s favourite pupil. At the end of his life Kahn said he was happy to be regarded as a disciple of Keynes. However, it may be argued that Kahn was much more than either of these (which is not meant to downgrade either of them). Kahn was born in London in 1905 into a Jewish family of German origin. His family combined strict religious observance with a passion for education. Kahn went to St Paul’s School for Boys. (Joan Robinson, his greatest intellectual friend, went to St Paul’s School for Girls.) He came up to Cambridge in 1926, to King’s College. For the first three years he read mathematics, obtaining a First, and then physics, in which he obtained a Second and a notorious reputation for clumsiness and breakages at laboratory practicals. He stayed on for a fourth year, reading for Part II of the Economics Tripos. Kahn was supervised by Gerald Shove and Keynes. He obtained a First, a remarkable performance. This was followed by an even more remarkable achievement. He wrote, in just over one and a half years, a Fellowship dissertation for King’s, “The economics of the short period”, which was highly praised by Pigou and Keynes. In his dissertation Kahn (1929) made the short period a topic worthy of study in its own right, especially in periods of recession or depression when the ceteris paribus assumption of a given stock of capital goods held for long stretches of calendar time. In the...
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