Selected Essays of James Tobin
Chapter 25: Fisher's introductory text
25. Fisher’s introductory text* Irving Fisher was a dedicated teacher – in classrooms, in books, and in the personal contacts by which he sought to educate presidents of the United States and inﬂuential business and government leaders throughout the world. At Yale, Fisher liked to prepare for his students his own written expositions. He even wrote a calculus text for fellow students he was tutoring. Not surprisingly, when he assumed responsibility for the economics introductory course in 1910 he was dissatisﬁed with existing texts and wrote his own. He and a half-dozen other instructors taught from experimental editions for two years before he settled on the published version of Elementary Principles of Economics (1912). It was reprinted 10 times, the last in 1932, but never substantively revised. Elementary Principles was not very popular outside Yale. However, much of the material survived, incorporated in the more conventional textbook published ﬁrst in 1926 and in its ﬁfth and ﬁnal version in 1948, by Fisher’s Yale students and colleagues F.R. Fairchild, E.S. Furniss and N.S. Buck. Their Elementary Economics was the market leader between the world wars. Maybe Fisher’s text was too good for the market. Anyway it is very diﬀerent from other texts of his day and of ours. Fisher does not try to capture students’ attention by covering contemporary events, controversies, and policies. He includes few statistics, none that have to be up-to-date to be useful. He does not tailor his expositions and illustrations too closely to the experiences...
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