By WSJ Staff
Paul A. Samuelson, whose analytical work laid the foundation for modern economics,died Sunday. He was 94. Actively publishing into the 2000s, Mr. Samuelson’s career in economics spanned eight decades. In 1970, he was the first American to win the Nobel Prize in economics, the second year the prize was offered.The following are some remembrances of Mr. Samuelson:
Lawrence Summers, nephew of Mr. Samuelson, director of the White House National Economic Council, former Treasury Secretary:
“Above all else, Paul Samuelson was a scholar. He used to proudly remark that he had never spent a full week in Washington. But through his research, teaching, and writing he had more impact on the economic life of this country and the world than any government economic official and many presidents. We will not see his likes again.”
Ben Bernanke, Federal Reserve Chairman, MIT PhD:
“Paul Samuelson was both a path-breaking and prolific economic theorist and one of the greatest teachers that economics has ever known. I join with many other former students and colleagues of Paul’s in mourning the passing of a titan of economics.”
Robert Lucas, Nobel Prize winner, University of Chicago Professor. (Excerpted from his memoir):
“Samuelson was the Julia Child of economics, somehow teaching you the basics and giving you the feeling of becoming an insider in a complex culture all at the same time. I loved the Foundations. Like so many others in my cohort, I internalized its view that if I couldn’t formulate a problem in economic theory mathematically, I didn’t know what I was doing. I came to the position that mathematical analysis is not one of many ways of doing economic theory: It is the only way. Economic theory is mathematical analysis. Everything else is just pictures and talk.”
George Akerlof, Nobel Prize winner, MIT PhD, Berkeley professor:
When I was at MIT in the 1960’s Paul Samuelson was far and away the leading economist in the country. He was the leading adviser to the Kennedy administration, the leading economic theorist and also the author of the leading elementary textbook. Yet he also found time to be tremendously involved in the MIT economics PhD program. He always kept his door open and attended such events as the department picnic.
Samuelson was also incredibly efficient, and, as students, we used to receive pink slips, which were pink memos, with some thought of his in our mailboxes. When I wrote about his participation in the program and his interaction with all the students in a commemorative volume for him some years later, I received one of his pink slips, which said, “Thank you for the comments. I had never thought of myself as Mr. Chips.” He may not have thought of himself that way, but of course he was.
I also remember taking a course from him where he discussed, in the spring of 1964, a long time before (Milton) Friedman and (Edmund) Phelps became famous for it, the natural rate (of employment) hypothesis. Samuelson thought that there might be some truth to it, but thought that if it were not true that believing it would do great harm. Governments would then keep employment low because of unfounded fears of accelerating inflation. Samuelson was way ahead of his time, not just in considering the natural rate (of employment) hypothesis, but also in appreciating that it might not be true.
Robert Hall, Stanford professor, head of the recession dating committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research, MIT PHd:
“Paul Samuelson created modern economics, in that he brought rigorous thinking to a fie