Selected Essays of James Tobin
Chapter 30: Jan Tinbergen (12 April 1903…9 June 1994)
30. Jan Tinbergen (12 April 1903–9 June 1994)* Jan Tinbergen’s life and work spanned the 20th century. He was the century’s own economist, probably the most substantial contributor to the remarkable advances in economic science that occurred in these years. In 1968, the Bank of Sweden established the Alfred Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science, designed to be in every respect parallel to the original Nobel Prizes in sciences and literature. The initial prize was shared by Jan Tinbergen of the Netherlands and Ragnar Frisch (1895–1973) of Norway. These choices were so obviously merited that they were universally and enthusiastically applauded. The major advance in economics during the 20th century was that it became more precise, more rigorous, more quantitative, more mathematical, more statistical – in sum, more scientiﬁc. A landmark in this development was the founding in 1931 of the worldwide Econometric Society, which began publishing Econometrica in 1933. Frisch and Tinbergen were important founders. Even more signiﬁcant, they were the leading intellectual inspirations for the new quantitative methods of economic analysis. Tinbergen was later a leader of the Econometrics Institute of Rotterdam, founded in 1955. Today econometrics has long since outgrown its status as a somewhat esoteric specialty. Almost all professional economics is econometric, almost all practitioners possess and rely on econometric skills. Tinbergen began as a mathematical physicist. He received his doctorate in 1929 and joined the Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics. He served there for 10 years. He learned economics on his own,...
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