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William Whewell (1794-1866), Dionysius Lardner (1793-1859) and Charles Babbage (1792-1871)

William Whewell (1794-1866), Dionysius Lardner (1793-1859) and Charles Babbage (1792-1871)

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The importance of Whewell, Lardner and Babbage to the history of economic thought is as dependent upon the retrospective reading of their work as it is upon their contemporary significance. However, their individual reactions to the industrial and technological revolutions of the early nineteenth century are also of particular interest to us.

William Whewell was known in his own times as a historian and philosopher of science, however, more recently he has been hailed as one of the founders of British mathematical economics. Dionysius Lardner, Professor of Natural Philosophy and Astronomy at University College, London, was both an early railway economist and a precursor of modern theories of profit maximalization. Charles Babbage may legitimately be regarded as the father of the modern computer, yet his most popular book, On the Economics of Machinery and Manufacturers (1832), was an unprecedented study of what we would now call operational research and had a significant effect upon both John Stuart Mill and Karl Marx.

These were the 'also ran' but they are no less important than the forerunners for understanding the development of economic thought in the first half of the nineteenth century.

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