Edited by Ross B. Emmett
Chapter 6: Frank H. Knight
Ross B. Emmett Frank Hyneman Knight (1885–1972) was born in White Oak Township, McLean County, Illinois in November 1885. While the demands of farm life often took precedence over education, Knight and his siblings eventually were able to pursue university studies: three sons, including Frank, became economists. After graduating from Milligan College in 1911, Frank Knight completed a BSc and an MA (in German) at the University of Tennessee. He considered graduate study in Germany, but accepted instead a scholarship to study philosophy at Cornell University. Knight transferred to economics during his first year at Cornell (1913–14) after his philosophy professor told him he was too skeptical to be a philosopher (Johnson 1952, p. 227). He completed his PhD in 1916, under the supervision of Allyn A. Young. Knight’s dissertation is one of the most famous in the economics literature because it both provided closure to the version of neoclassical theory associated with John Bates Clark by providing a theory of profit and opened the door to a host of new questions with the introduction of a theory of uncertainty. The dissertation won second prize in the 1917 Hart, Schaffner and Marx essay competition, and was published in 1921 as Risk, Uncertainty and Profit (Knight 1921). A short stint as an instructor at Cornell (1916–17) was followed by two years at the University of Chicago (1917–19). But Chicago did not have a permanent position to offer Knight when the University of Iowa offered him the chance...
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