The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Ramsey, Frank Plumpton (1903–1930)

  • Peter Newman
Reference work entry


There are interesting parallels in the careers of Frank Ramsey and John von Neumann. Each was born in 1903, one the product of the ‘High Intelligentsia of England’ (Keynes 1933, p. vii) and the other the son of a wealthy banker in Budapest (Ulam 1976, p. 79). Each was a creative mathematician of high order but each also made major contributions to at least two other disciplines. Each wrote just three papers in economic theory, all six of which were of fundamental importance. Moreover, with one exception every one of these seminal papers had to wait many years for its proper recognition; even the exception – the utility theory set out in the Appendix to von Neumann and Morgenstern (1947) – at first encountered serious misunderstanding within the profession. Indeed, considering them purely as economists, one wonders how these two geniuses would fare today, when promotion and tenure so often depend on a good immediate showing in citation indexes and the like.


Bayes, T. Bernoulli, D. Bootstrap Choice under uncertainty De Finetti, B. Dutch books Growth theory Optimal taxation Probability Ramsey, F.P. Sraffa, P. Subjective probability von Neumann, J. von Neumann–Morgenstern Wittgenstein, L. 

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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Newman
    • 1
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