Paul Samuelson is a renowned American economist who holds the honor of being the first American to receive the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. He has been credited with augmenting the level of mathematical procedures involved in economic analysis, allowing for more in depth study of the discipline.
Samuelson was born in Indiana in 1915 and enrolled in the University of Chicago at a tender age of 16. He went on to receive Bachelor of Arts degree from the institution, after which he moved to Harvard University for further studies. At Harvard he pursued his Masters of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy, managing to obtain both degrees in 1936 and 1941 respectively. Samuelson’s early talents as an economist were recognized at Harvard, as he was awarded the David A. Wells prize for his doctoral dissertation in economics. In later life, he also managed to draw recognition from the American Economic Association which awarded him the John Bates Clark Medal in 1947 for his outstanding input to the field of economics as a young aspirer.
Samuelson’s contributions to economics began even before his graduation, as he utilized his time at Harvard in trying to understand the ambiguities and incongruities he observed in the economic teachings of the time. He thus incorporated mathematics in the economic domain to enhance his comprehension of the discipline. By 1938, he had already published his first article, “A Note in the Measurement of Utility”. This article showcased how consumer preferences can be discovered by observing choices under various scenarios, as opposed to the convention of asking, thereby giving birth to the notion of “revealed preferences”.
In 1948, Paul Samuelson finished his book “Economics: An Introductory Analysis”. This went on to become the highest selling economics text book of all time. The book has been translated in to a multitude of languages, selling over a million copies. Samuelson elaborates on Keynesian economics, and asserts in the later editions of the book that governments can control their economy’s business cycles and price levels simply by tweaking fiscal and monetary strategies. His book is regarded by many others in the field as his greatest contribution as it has helped mutualize the international perspective on economics.
Samuelson published a weekly column for Newsweek from 1966 to 1981, co-authoring it with fellow economist Milton Friedman where they both presented opposing sides on economic issues. Apart from writing a variety of other publications, Samuelson was also a teacher, joining the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1940 as an Associate Professor of Economics. He earned full professor status seven years later in 1947, and was later named Institute Professor, the highest honor granted by MIT to its faculty members. Samuelson also offered his own personal consultancy, working for the National Resources Planning Board, the United States Treasury, the Council of Economic Advisors and the Federal Reserve Bank among others during his professional career. He also assumed an economic advisor’s role for President elect Kennedy; this along with his other positions in serving the government landed him the presidency of the International Economic Association in 1965.
Paul Samuelson passed away on 13 December 2009 aged 94. His legacy will boast founding the Neo-Keynesian branch of economics. His contributions to the discipline brought him widespread acclaim from fellow professionals and the media alike. He was referred to as the “Father of Modern Economics” by Randall E. Parker. The New York Times declared him as the “foremost academic economist of the 20th century”.