Paul Samuelson, Necessity, Mothering and Invention

From the NY Times obituary on titanic 20th century economist, Paul Samuelson, comes an interesting tidbit on part of the motivation for writing his industry-standard textbook: triplets (with 3 kids already in the household). Could be an interesting strategy, although sociology lacks the unifying disciplinary coherence needed to construct a large enough textbook market to provide the big payoff. On the other hand, I’ve only got twins.

The birth of the triplets doubled the number of children in the Samuelson household, which soon found itself sending 350 diapers to the laundry each week. His friends suggested that Mr. Samuelson needed to write a book to earn more money. He decided to write an economics textbook, but one that would not only be compelling for students but also sophisticated and comprehensive. And he wanted to center it on the still poorly understood Keynesian revolution…

Students were attracted to its lively prose and relevance to their everyday lives. Many textbook authors began to copy its presentation. “Economics,” together with shrewd investing, made Mr. Samuelson a millionaire many times over.

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