Francis Ysidro Edgeworth

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Francis Ysidro Edgeworth (February 8, 1845 - February 13, 1926) was an Irish polymath who studied at Trinity College, Dublin before obtaining a scholarship to Balliol College, Oxford where he subsequently became a professor. A deep thinker, his contributions were far ahead of his time.

Edgeworth was a highly influential figure in the development of neo-classical economics. He was the first to apply certain formal mathematical techniques to individual decision making in economics. He developed utility theory introducing the indifference curve and the famous Edgeworth box which is now familiar to undergraduates of microeconomics. The high degree of originality demonstrated in his most important book on economics, Mathematical Psychics, was matched only by the difficulty of reading it. He frequently referenced literary sources and interspersed the writing with passages in a number of languages, including as Latin, French and Ancient Greek.

Alfred Marshall, the most influential economist of the time, commented in his review of Mathematical Psychics[1] (

This book shows clear signs of genius, and is a promise of great things to come... His readers may sometimes wish that he had kept his work by him a little longer till he had worked it out a little more fully, and obtained that simplicity which comes only through long labour. But taking it as what it claims to be, 'a tentative study', we can only admire its brilliancy, force, and originality.

While Jevons noted [2] (

Whatever else readers of this book may think about it, they would probably all agree that it is a very remarkable one... There can be no doubt that in the style of his composition Mr. Edgeworth does not do justice to his matter. His style, if not obscure, is implicit, so that the reader is left to puzzle out every important sentence like an enigma.

He was the editor of the Economic Journal from its creation in 1891 and was succeeded in this role by John Maynard Keynes in 1926.

As a self-taught mathematical statistician he is remembered by the eponymous Edgeworth series. He wrote the article on Probability in the 1911 edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. In 1928 A. L. Bowley published a book F. Y. Edgeworth's Contributions to Mathematical Statistics.

He was also a barrister, and held the Tooke chair of Economic Science at King's College, London and later the Drummond Chair of Political Economy at Oxford.

External links

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