I should have taken the course in University, Economics 101. I was so nervous that I did not belong in university that I believed the word around campus that Economics 101 was really hard and one should avoid it if he could. I regret I took that bad advice and didn't rise to the challenge. Today I find myself quite interested in economics and how it affects our lives.
By my fourth year, I thought nothing of spending a year trying to master the dense thought of the German philosophers, Kant and Hegel, economics would have been easy by comparison. I guess I had grown in confidence in four years.
Well the great teacher of economics and the writer of the text book on the subject has just died at age 94, Dr. Paul Samuelson. The textbook which was entitled "Economics" we always refered to it as "Samuelson." Little did I know that the author really was more important and famous than the subject.
Great teachers, great academics, who are also lovely human beings who make a profound contribution to a subject important to our lives are rare. I only ever had one, Dr. James Luther Adams, with his vast understand of the world of ideasexplained in long and generous discussions. Paul Samuelson was such a teacher who has shaped the study of economics around the world and left behind a legion of former students and colleagues, some of whom also have won the Nobel Prize in economics as he did. Then there are the hundred of thousands of student who's first and maybe only effort to learn something about economics was taking Economics 101, in some great or small university or college, and using the text "Samuelson". The man and subject were in deed synonymous.
I read a couple of tributes to Samuelson that I thought were well done. They are worth reading not so much to learn anything about economics but to get to appreciate what the life of a great academic can be and certainly was in this instance. I recommend them. The first is long and full of interesting details.
(If you have to register to read it, it is a pain in the behind but I still think it is worth it.)
The second memorial piece is by Paul Krugman a former student and colleague of Dr. Samuelson. He is a prominent public economist who often writes critical articles about the current government's economic approach to the problems.
I hope we have all had at least one truly great teacher in our lives whose encounter with us continues to contribute to our lives.