Gen. Francis Amasa Walker, 1840-1897.

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Portrait of F.A. Walker

One of the most prominent figures in the history of American economics, General Francis Amasa Walker was a remarkable man with a remarkable career - brevetted brigadier general at 24 for the Army of the Potomac during the Civil War, superintendent of the U.S. Census at 30, one of the first presidents of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), president of the American Statistical Association (ASA) and the first president of the American Economic Association (AEA) (which, before the days of the Nobel Memorial prize, would award the "Walker Medal" to leading economists for lifetime achievements). Walker was also an economics professor at Yale and head of the statistical bureau of the U.S. Treasury.

Last but not least, Walker was a scholar of remarkable caliber. Throughout his life, Walker strove to establish the "scientific" status of economics, and a pioneer in using statistical data to illustrate economic arguments. While not really a "Neoclassical" in the strict sense, Walker nonetheless helped bury Classical economics by his 1875 demolition of the "wages fund" doctrine. He also turned the Ricardian theory of rent on its head by developing a rather unique theory of distribution which relied on a generalized concept of rent -- thereby presaging the marginal productivity theory of distribution. This was related to his remarkable theory of the entrepreneur and entrepreneurial profit. Avidly courted by both by American Neoclassicals and the American Institutionalists, Walker cannot readily be classified as either.

Being the son of Amasa Walker, Walker was also particularly interested in currency questions and became a proponent of bimetallism. Walker grew increasingly conservative with age. He became an outspoken apologist of the Gilded Age and a formidable opponent of Henry George, socialists, populists and immigrants.

Major works of Francis A. Walker

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