Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Memories of Paul

Like many students of my generation, I started my studies of economics with Paul Samuelson.  When I took econ 101 as a freshman at Princeton, Paul's textbook, then in its 9th or 10th edition, was the assigned reading.  I recall the book well, and I give it a lot of credit for fostering my interest in economics.

A few years later, as a grad student at MIT, I sat in some of Paul's lectures.  They were mainly about "reswitching" and the Cambridge-Cambridge capital controversy.  A few years after that, when I was an assistant professor, Paul was part of the effort that tried to recruit me to join the MIT faculty.  (In the end, I decided to stay at Harvard--persuaded in large measure by Paul's nephew, Larry Summers).  Over the past decade or so, I saw Paul off and on, mainly at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, where we both served on an academic advisory panel.  He remained engaged and insightful well into his years of retirement.  He will be missed, in that meeting and many other places as well.

A few years ago, I had the good fortune of running across a first edition of Paul's textbook (not the recent reprint of the original text, but an actual 1948 edition).  It was a real find.  I bought the volume in an online auction for, if my recollection is correct, $35.  Talk about consumer surplus!  I would have gladly paid many times that.

At the next Boston Fed meeting, I took the book along to get Paul to sign it.  Below is the book's title page, along with Paul's gracious inscription.

Click on images to enlarge.