A Portrait with Family and Friends
Chapter 3: Professor F.Y. Edgeworth
When from their game of dice men separate, He who hath lost remains in sadness fix’d, Revolving in his mind what luckless throws He cast: but meanwhile, all the company Go with the other; one before him runs, And one behind his mantle twitches, one Fast by his side bids him remember him. He stops not; and each one, to whom his hand Is stretch’d, well knows he bids him stand aside; And thus he from the press defends himself. (Purgatory, Canto VI, vv. 1–9). Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy. 3.1 PRESIDENT OF SECTION F OF THE BRITISH ASSOCIATION Edgeworth’s efforts on the committees of the British Association for the Advancement of Science were finally rewarded by his being elected president of Section F of this Association in 1889 – a presidency that he held again in 1922. As his first presidential address, he chose one of his favourite topics: ‘On the Application of Mathematics to Political Economy’.1 The address was an explicit homage to Jevons, who had ‘submitted to this section a general mathematical theory of Political Economy’, which, as he himself stated, was ‘received without a word of interest or belief’. Along with this tribute to Jevons, Edgeworth also confirmed his own conception of ‘our mathematical method rightly understood’: It is concerned with quantity, indeed, but not necessarily with number. It is not so much a political arithmetic as a sort of economic algebra, in which the problem is not to find x and y in terms of...
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