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Ayres, Leonard Porter (15 September 1879–29 October 1946), educator, statistician, and economist, was born in Niantic, Connecticut, the son of Milan Church Ayres and Georgiana Gall. His father, a clergyman, author, and journalist, was editor of the Boston Daily Advertiser. The family moved to Newton Highlands, Massachusetts, where Leonard received his early education in public schools. An avid bicycle racer, he participated in national matches as a young man. After receiving his Ph.B. degree from Boston University in 1902, he taught school in Puerto Rico, rising rapidly to become general superintendent of the island’s schools and chief of the Education Department’s Statistics Division in 1906. Returning to the states, he moved to New York City and joined the Russell Sage Foundation in 1908 to conduct investigations of the health and education of schoolchildren under the direction of ...

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Hotelling, Harold (29 September 1895–26 December 1973), economist and statistician, was born in Fulda, Minnesota, the son of Clair Alberta Hotelling, a hay merchant, and Lucy Amelia Rawson. When Hotelling was about nine years old, the family moved to Seattle, Washington, which offered educational opportunities not available in Fulda. Hotelling attended high school there and then went on to study at the University of Washington, where he majored in journalism. His studies were interrupted by World War I army service, from which he was discharged early in 1919. He completed his degree in that same year. His undergraduate studies had included mathematics, science, and economics as well as journalism. Later, when he was a professor of economics, he was to exaggerate the amount of that subject he had taken (only three courses), probably because he was sensitive about the relatively little formal training he had received in it....

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Koopmans, Tjalling Charles (28 August 1910–26 February 1985), econometrician and mathematical economist, was born in ’s Graveland, the Netherlands, the son of Sjoerd Koopmans and Wijtske van der Zee, schoolteachers. The grammar school Koopmans and his two brothers attended was that at which their father was headmaster....

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Simon Newcomb. Pen and ink drawing by Robert Kastor, 1903. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-99410).

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Newcomb, Simon (12 March 1835–11 July 1909), mathematical astronomer and political economist, was born in Wallace, Nova Scotia, the son of John Burton Newcomb, an itinerant schoolteacher, and Emily Prince. Through reading and home instruction, young Newcomb gained a solid, basic education, though he spent long hours working on neighboring farms. At age sixteen he became an apprentice to a New Brunswick herbal “doctor.” Increasingly disillusioned with the herbalist, he ended the agreement after two years by fleeing to the United States. (Descended from New Englanders, he became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1864.)...

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von Neumann, John Louis (28 December 1903–08 February 1957), mathematician, mathematical physicist, and theoretical economist, was born in Budapest, Hungary, the son of Max Neumann, a well-to-do banker, and Margaret Kann. He was born Neumann János (in Hungarian the surname is written first). In 1913 his father was ennobled by the Kaiser Franz Joseph with the hereditary title of “Margittai,” which is roughly the Hungarian equivalent of “von.” While studying in Germany, the young Neumann used the name Johann Ludwig von Neumann, and because this name appeared on his German publications before coming to the United States, his name was anglicized retaining the “von” title. He attended the Lutheran Gymnasium in Budapest and from 1921 to 1923 studied chemistry and mathematics at the University of Berlin. In 1923 he entered the Eidgenosse Technische Hochschule in Zürich, from which he received the degree of ...

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Walker, Francis Amasa (02 July 1840–05 January 1897), statistician, economist, and educator, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Amasa Walker, a retired shoe manufacturer who became a leading economist, and Hannah Ambrose. After graduating from Amherst College in 1860, Walker worked briefly as a lawyer before joining the Union army in August 1861. He was wounded at Chancellorsville in 1863 and held at the notorious Libby Prison in Richmond. After being released in an exchange, Walker’s ill health forced his resignation from the army in January 1865. He was brevetted brigadier general. His war experience matured him beyond his years, and he never lost his keen interest in military affairs, as revealed in his ...