PerspectiveRetrospective

Paul A. Samuelson (1915–2009)

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Science  15 Jan 2010:
Vol. 327, Issue 5963, pp. 282
DOI: 10.1126/science.1186205

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Summary

The death of Paul A. Samuelson last month signals the end of an era in economics in two separate but related ways. First, as a precocious undergraduate at the University of Chicago and then as a graduate student and Junior Fellow at Harvard University, he found economics to be a discursive, almost ruminative, discipline, even though its basic observables—prices and amounts of goods and services—were obviously ripe for systematic quantification. To his delight, he found that reformulation in standard mathematical terms led not only to great gains in clarity and transparency, but also to new analytical results, a broader scope for the discipline, and the uncovering of unifying principles that both simplified and deepened it. His work transformed the method, content, and whole atmosphere of economic research.