The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Wells, David Ames (1828–1898)

  • Warren J. Samuels
Reference work entry


Wells was born on 17 June 1828 in Springfield, Massachusetts, and died on 5 November 1898 in Norwich, Connecticut. Trained at Williams College and Lawrence Scientific School at Harvard, Wells first taught and published as a geologist and chemist. After newspaper work, Wells turned to economics in his mid-forties. After publishing on the national debt, he was appointed to a series of federal and state tax positions, where he issued influential reports, revised tax laws, and originated the stamp system for collecting taxes on tobacco and liquor. He lectured in economics at Yale, Harvard and elsewhere, succeeded John Stuart Mill in 1874 as foreign associate of the French Academy, was president of the American Social Science Association, and received honorary degrees from Oxford, Harvard and Williams. His economic interests were practical and empirical, rather than theoretical; his place was transitional between the popular writer and the technically trained professional investigator.


Free trade Individualism Laissez-faire Wells, D. A. 

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  1. Joyner, F.B. 1939. David Ames Wells: Champion of free trade. Cedar Rapids: Torch Press.Google Scholar

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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Warren J. Samuels
    • 1
  1. 1.