DEFINITION of 'Paul Samuelson'

Paul Samuelson was a noted academic economist who left a lasting imprint on the field.  In 1970, Samuelson was the first American to be awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics for his outstanding contributions.  Upon receiving the award, Samuelson was praised for raising "the level of scientific analysis in economic theory."  His legacy includes a college textbook called “Economics: An Introductory Analysis,” currently in its 19thedition, and available in 40 languages, first published in 1948.

BREAKING DOWN 'Paul Samuelson'

Samuelson attended Harvard University where he was awarded a PhD in philosophy, and his 1941 doctoral dissertation was the basis for “Foundations of Economic Analysis,” published by Harvard Press in 1947.  At 25, Samuelson began to teach at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he remained for the rest of his career, becoming a full professor at 32. While at MIT, Samuelson taught generations of students on the principles of economics, and continued research into many aspects of economic theory.

Samuelson also served the US government as an adviser to two Presidents, Kennedy and Johnson, and later worked as a consultant to the United States Treasury, the Bureau of the Budget and the President's Council of Economic Advisers.  In 1996, President Clinton lauded Samuelson’s contribution to economics when he presented him with the National Medal of Science, commending him for his “fundamental contributions to economic science” across a 60-year career.

Samuelson was both a serious technical wonk and a populist about the field of economics, digging into such dense research topics as consumer theory, modern welfare economics, linear programming, Keynesian economics, economic dynamics, international trade theory, logic choice and maximization, while also co-authoring (with Milton Friedman) a column on economic issues for Newsweek magazine.

Samuelson died in 2009 at the age of 94 following a brilliant career in which he made contributions as a teacher, researcher, speaker, and adviser to students and colleagues in the field of economics.


  1. Robert M. Solow

    Robert M. Solow is an American economist who spent his career ...
  2. Leonid Hurwicz

    A professor of economics at the University of Minnesota and winner ...
  3. The Clark Medal

    The Clark Medal is a prize awarded annually by the American Economic ...
  4. Revealed Preference

    Revealed preference theory asserts that the best way to measure ...
  5. John Bates Clark Medal

    The John Bates Clark Medal is one of the most prestigious awards ...
  6. James A. Mirrlees

    James A. Mirrlees is an economist who won the Nobel Prize in ...
Related Articles
  1. Insights

    Harvard and MIT Professors Win Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics

    British economist Oliver Hart, 68, and Finnish economist Bengt Holmström, 67, were honored with the award today for their contributions to contract theory.
  2. Insights

    American Economist Richard Thaler Wins Nobel Memorial Prize

    The University of Chicago's Richard Thaler has been recognized for his contributions to behavioral economics.
  3. Insights

    Where Does the Nobel Prize Money Come From?

    The cash award associated with the Nobel Prize has changed in value considerably since the first awards in 1901. But where does it come from?
  4. Insights

    The History of Economic Thought

    Economics is a vital part of every day life. Discover the major players who shaped its development.
  5. Insights

    Stagflation, 1970s Style

    Find out how Milton Friedman's monetarist theory helped bring the U.S. out of the economic doldrums.
  6. Personal Finance

    6 Jobs You Can't Get Without A PhD

    There are many types of PhDs available, but only a handful of careers actually require this prestigious degree.
  7. Personal Finance

    Is An MIT Education Worth the Tuition?

    An education from MIT may look pricey on the surface, but the earning potential of graduates means it's usually a very solid investment.
  8. Personal Finance

    Simon Johnson on the Next Global Recession

    Simon Johnson is forecasting a "rollercoaster ride" for the world's economy.
  1. What is the difference between Keynesian and monetarist economics?

    Discover how the debate in macroeconomics between Keynesian economics and monetarist economics, the control of money vs government ... Read Answer >>
  2. What are some of the limitations and drawbacks of economics as a field?

    Find out why the field of economics is full of controversy. Policy decisions, political campaigns and personal finances are ... Read Answer >>
  3. What is demand-side economics?

    Learn the basic theory of demand-side economics, which emphasizes the importance of aggregate demand and supports government ... Read Answer >>
  4. What Actions Can Be Used to Control Stagflation?

    Find out why economic stagflation cannot be corrected through traditional fiscal or monetary policy and why it was thought ... Read Answer >>
  5. What is the relationship between human capital and economic growth?

    Learn what human capital and economic growth are, how human capital is related to economic growth and see examples of the ... Read Answer >>
Trading Center