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.