Great Economists Since Petty and Boisguilbert
Edited by Gilbert Faccarello and Heinz D. Kurz
Chapter 107: Abram Bergson [Abram Burk] (1914–2003)
Abram Bergson (21 April 1914–23 April 2003) has been famous both for welfare economics and for Soviet economics. It is worth noticing that two of his most well-known papers, published in 1936 and 1938, are authored by Burk while referred to as Bergson’s. At a time when being a Jew was not easy in Europe and being Russian was not popular in the US, his older brother Gus Burk and himself, Abram Burk, were both students in Harvard. They voluntarily decided to change their surname into Bergson in order to assert themselves as sons of Russian immigrant Jews. This is just one story about the change from Burk to Bergson as it is described by his great friend Paul A. Samuelson. The latter recalls that Abram Bergson was known as “Honest Abe” in Harvard; he describes him as very modest yet not shy, straight arrow, upright, and as “a man of the center with a personal preference toward less economic inequality” (2004: 27, 29). Abram Bergson spent his youth in Baltimore. He was married to Rita Macht Bergson, herself trained in Baltimore, with whom he had three daughters Judy, Mimi and Lucy. After an undergraduate training at Johns Hopkins University, he studied economics at the Harvard Graduate School. He started to learn the Russian language and he made a lengthy visit to Moscow in 1937. He published his Harvard PhD thesis in 1940, by which time he had already gained a wide recognition as a mathematical economist. During World...