In Praise of Paul Samuelson

Sun, 13 Dec 2009 19:10:32 +0000

The New York Times reports that Paul Samuelson, the most important academic economist of the 20th century, has passed away.  The lengthy obituary is a worthwhile read.  As a graduate student at MIT in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I met Paul Samuelson but did not get to know him.  His influence was evident, though, and I give Michael Weinstein of the Times credit for concluding his article this way:

Despite his celebrated accomplishments, Mr. Samuelson preached and practiced humility. The M.I.T. economics department became famous for collegiality, in no small part because no one else could play prima donna if Mr. Samuelson refused the role, and, of course, he did. Economists, he told his students, as Churchill said of political colleagues, “have much to be humble about.”

Everyone I met at MIT in those days paid this favor forward.  It was a wonderful place to be a graduate student.