Simon Newcomb, 1835-1909.

Portrait
of S.Newcomb

Simon Newcomb was one of America's earliest (but not complete) converts to the Marginalist Revolution.  But he was neither an economist by training nor vocation. Rather, Newcomb was a renowned Johns Hopkins mathematician, physicist and astronomer who had risen from rags to intellectual riches. Nonetheless, he was equipped to help economics along its mathematical track. Newcomb was also one of the main developers of the Quantity Theory of Money (before Fisher) and was among the first economists to distinguish carefully between stocks and flows and, in doing so, provided the earliest clean statement of the theory of loanable funds

On the whole, Newcomb was not necessarily a very nice person.  He was the quintessential American apologist and a steadfast opponent of the Institutionalist school.  He engaged Richard T. Ely in a particularly nasty Methodenstreit in the 1880s and 1890s, eventually being instrumental in securing the latter's departure from Johns Hopkins and the transformation of the American Economic Association into a wider professional organization.  

Newcomb can be characterized as an "apologist" for economic doctrine.  He was an avid proponent of laissez-faire, but he coupled that with a vociferous and outspoken opposition to the emerging American labor union movement. Naturally, as a faithful devotee of the Quantity Theory, he helped create, he was also opposed to the inconvertibility of paper currency and the bimetallist movement.

Major works of Simon Newcomb

Resources on Simon Newcomb


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