The Elgar Companion to the Chicago School of Economics
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The Elgar Companion to the Chicago School of Economics

Edited by Ross B. Emmett

Many know the Chicago School of Economics and its association with Milton Friedman, George Stigler, Ronald Coase and Gary Becker. But few know the School’s history and the full scope of its scholarship. In this Companion, leading scholars examine its history and key figures, as well as provide surveys of the School’s contributions to central aspects of economics, including: price theory, monetary theory, labor and economic history. The volume examines the School’s traditions of applied welfare theory and law and economics while providing a glimpse into emerging research on Chicago’s role in the development of neoliberalism.
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Chapter 6: Frank H. Knight

Ross B. Emmett


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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