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ID number:597698
Published: 01.11.2005.
Language: English
Level: Secondary school
Literature: n/a
References: Not used

THEODORE WILLIAM SCHULTZ was an outstanding innovator in the development of economics, a teacher who had a remarkable impact on hundreds of students, a highly successful academic administrator, and a keen observer of the world in which he lived. I know of no one who learned more from direct observation than he did. Whenever he had the opportunity, he went to the field, so to speak, to see how real people addressed their problems. While he always cherished the structure of economic analysis as it existed, he wanted that structure to help him understand what went on in the world. If it didn't, he thought that the structure or the implications that were commonly attributed to it should be revised. As will be noted, he was responsible for a number of important innovations in the way economics helps us view reality.

He was born on a farm near Arlington, South Dakota, on April 30, 1902; he died on February 26, 1998, at the age of ninety-five. He was one of eight children, with four brothers and three sisters. He was unable to attend high school because he was needed on the farm. In 1921 he attended a short course at South Dakota State College. Someone at the college recognized that he was an obviously unusual individual, and in 1924 he was admitted as a regular student. He completed the undergraduate program in three years and received his B.S. degree in 1927. He immediately entered the graduate program at the University of Wisconsin, where he was awarded his Ph.D. in 1930. He became an assistant professor at Iowa State College and remained at the college until 1943, when he moved to the University of Chicago.

His influence on the lives of people—students, colleagues and others—was very great indeed. He was very open, always ready to intellectually engage anyone who approached him in a serious manner. He carried out an enormous correspondence, responding to all serious inquiries or comments that came to him, not mattering whether from complete strangers, fellow economists, or important political figures. As many testify, his impact on students was enormous, both in the classroom and as a thesis adviser. But he was accessible to more than just his students, colleagues and persons of importance. Let me illustrate – not once he helped people. For example, Anne O. Krueger, who was never a student of his, sent him a paper on the role of human capital differentials in explaining income differences among nations. He read the paper with care and, as he so often did, he sent her a response that included high praise for her work and suggestions for improvement. He invited her to give a paper at a conference he was organizing. Somewhat to his surprise, she turned down the invitation because the topic was outside her area of research competence. He indicated that he was somewhat bemused that someone so junior would turn down such an invitation. When he reissued the invitation to attend, she did. Thus began a relationship that spanned nearly three decades.

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