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 122: Robert E. Lucas (b. 1937)

Arash Molavi Vasséi and Peter Spahn


Robert Emerson Lucas was born in 1937, the same year his father’s small business was wiped out by the Great Depression. In his autobiographical notes for the committee of the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, that honoured him in 1995, Lucas highlights the supportive role of his parents in his outstanding intellectual development (see also Lucas 2001). Young Robert showed an early interest and talent in science, mathematics, and engineering. After graduating in Seattle, he received a scholarship from the University of Chicago in 1955. There, he was attracted to liberal arts courses, especially to those on Western History. He soon realized, however, that economic education is a prerequisite for good historical judgement. He found his way to economics through Paul Samuelson’s Foundations of Economic Analysis (1947). Lucas owes his enthusiasm for mathematical economics in general, and general equilibrium analysis in particular, to Samuelson. His first contact with macroeconomics in  terms of simple investment saving–liquidity preference money supply equilibrium (IS–LM) dynamics left him unimpressed (see Lucas 2004). It is hard to overestimate the impact of Robert Lucas on modern macroeconomics. To him more than to anyone else does the representative macroeconomist owe his methodological judgement, his toolset, and his theoretical point of view. Lucas enters macroeconomics through the back door, by way of his collaboration with Leonard Rapping on labour economics. In Real Wages, Employment, and Inflation (1969) they apply the notion of intertemporal optimization, a cornerstone of general equilibrium analysis since...

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