Handbook on the History of Economic Analysis Volume I
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Handbook on the History of Economic Analysis Volume I

Great Economists Since Petty and Boisguilbert

Edited by Gilbert Faccarello and Heinz D. Kurz

Volume I contains original biographical profiles of many of the most important and influential economists from the seventeenth century to the present day. These inform the reader about their lives, works and impact on the further development of the discipline. The emphasis is on their lasting contributions to our understanding of the complex system known as the economy. The entries also shed light on the means and ways in which the functioning of this system can be improved and its dysfunction reduced. Each Handbook can be read individually and acts as a self-contained volume in its own right. It can be purchased separately or as part of a three-volume set.
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Chapter 15: Achilles-Nicolas Isnard (1748–1803)

Richard van den Berg


During the 1780s and 1790s, after the decline of the physiocratic school and before the publication of J.B. Say’s Traité d’économie politique, few French authors made lasting contributions to economic theory. A clear exception is Achilles-Nicolas Isnard, even though recognition of his work had to wait until the late nineteenth century. Even in 1954 Schumpeter observed that Isnard had “as yet to conquer the position in the history of economic theory that is due to him as a precursor of Léon Walras” (1954 [1994]: 217). Since then the engineer’s early contributions to value theory have been recognized more widely as well as the relevance of his conceptions for input–output theory. Still, Isnard’s contributions to mathematical economics have often been appraised in isolation and their relation to his wider social and economic thinking has rarely been studied. Achilles-Nicolas Isnard was born in Paris, most probably in 1748. Though the names of his parents are unknown, it appears that the Isnards were a relatively well-to-do bourgeois family. At the age of 19 Isnard entered the École royale des Ponts et Chaussées, at that time the foremost institution of technical education in France. In his seven years at the school he received a solid training in subjects such as map design and architecture, and various branches of mathematics in which he obtained such proficiency that for a time he ended up teaching the classes in algebra and calculus. In the same period he also established friendly contacts with at...

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