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Paul Samuleson: The people’s economist?

Summary:
Prof. Roger Backhouse of University of Birmingham is the author of Founder of Modern Economics: Paul A Samuelson, Volume I: Becoming Samuelson, 1915-1948 (2017). He writes a short profile of Samuelson in this aeon article: For 30 to 40 years after the end of the Second World War, Paul Samuelson was one of the best-known economists of all time. His name would have been familiar not just to other economists and students but to readers of The New York Times, The Washington Post and, above all, Newsweek, where he had a regular column for 15 years. In parts of the world, Samuelson’s fame even eclipsed that of John Maynard Keynes, who had been a major public figure as well as an economist. And yet there is a paradox at the heart of Samuelson’s work. His reputation was based on his

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Prof. Roger Backhouse of University of Birmingham is the author of Founder of Modern Economics: Paul A Samuelson, Volume I: Becoming Samuelson, 1915-1948 (2017).

He writes a short profile of Samuelson in this aeon article:

For 30 to 40 years after the end of the Second World War, Paul Samuelson was one of the best-known economists of all time. His name would have been familiar not just to other economists and students but to readers of The New York Times, The Washington Post and, above all, Newsweek, where he had a regular column for 15 years. In parts of the world, Samuelson’s fame even eclipsed that of John Maynard Keynes, who had been a major public figure as well as an economist.
And yet there is a paradox at the heart of Samuelson’s work. His reputation was based on his mathematical economics – abstract theories that would mean nothing to non-economists. At one point, some of his teachers even thought that he might be unemployable because they doubted whether he could teach ‘normal’ economics students; that is, people who knew less mathematics than he did. However, within a decade of obtaining his doctorate in 1941, Samuelson published an introductory economics textbook that became canonical in part for its success in presenting the subject in an accessible way, quite unlike the dry tomes of his predecessors in both content and appearance.
Samuelson’s Economics: An Introductory Analysis (1948) has gone through 19 editions and been translated into 41 languages. The first 11 editions sold more than 3 million copies. The book uses hardly any mathematics and is full of data about American households, firms, labour unions and government activities. How did an economist whose early reputation derived from his rarefied mathematical skills grow into one of the discipline’s great communicators?
More in the piece.
Amol Agrawal
I am currently pursuing my PhD in economics. I have work-ex of nearly 10 years with most of those years spent figuring economic research in Mumbai’s financial sector.

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