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 117: Robert Merton Solow (b. 1924)

Peter Kalmbach


Robert M. Solow was born on 23 August 1924 in Brooklyn, New York. He was the oldest of three children of parents who were children of immigrants. A scholarship allowed him to enrol in Harvard College from 1940 and he became, as he formulated it many years later, “curious about what made society tick”. After two years and at only 18 years of age he left the college and became a soldier for a three-year period, which he spent mainly in Italy. After the end of the war he studied at Harvard University and came in contact with Wassily Leontief who had a lasting influence on him and who hired him as a research assistant. Solow’s thesis was about changes in the size distribution of labour income and won him a prize. At Columbia University he enhanced his statistical and econometrical abilities, and in the early 1950s he became an assistant professor (later full professor) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he stayed for his whole academic career. There he developed a close friendship and productive collaboration with Paul A. Samuelson, who had the office next to him. In 1995 he retired but continued to do research, lecture and participate in public discussions – often with handy formulations on complicated issues. Solow received a number of important awards and prizes. In 1961 he was awarded the John Bates Clark Medal, which goes annually to the best economist under 40 years of age. In 1987 he was awarded the Nobel...

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