Photo of Paul A. Samuelson

Paul A. Samuelson

  • National Medal of Science
  • Behavioral And Social Science

For fundamental contributions to economic science, specifically general equilibrium theory and macroeconomics, and to economic education and policy over a period of nearly 60 years.

Paul A. Samuelson was drawn to economics during a college lecture on Thomas Malthus, where a simple equation seemed to suggest that mankind was drawn inevitably toward overpopulation and starvation. Samuelson is credited with transforming his discipline from one that philosophizes about economic issues to one that solves problems, answering questions about cause and effect with mathematical rigor and clarity.

Samuelson wrote one of the most widely used college textbooks in the history of U.S. education. His textbook, Economics, was the nation’s best-selling textbook for nearly 30 years after it was first published in 1948. Translated into 20 languages, it was selling 50,000 copies per year decades after it first appeared. His textbook taught college students how to think about economics.

Samuelson reshaped academic thinking on nearly every economic subject, from what Marx could have meant by a labor theory of value to whether stock prices fluctuate randomly. Samuelson brought mathematics into the mainstream of economic thinking, showing how to derive strong theoretical predictions from simple mathematical assumptions.

By Jen Santisi