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Francis A. Walker

Francis A. WalkerAKA Francis Amasa Walker

Born: 2-Jul-1840
Birthplace: Boston, MA
Died: 5-Jan-1897
Location of death: Boston, MA
Cause of death: unspecified
Remains: Buried, Walnut Grove Cemetery, North Brookfield, MA

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Occupation: Economist, Military, Educator

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: The Wages Question

American soldier and economist, born in Boston, Massachusetts, on the 2nd of July 1840. His father, Amasa Walker, was also a distinguished economist, who, retiring from commercial life in 1840, lectured on political economy in Oberlin College from 1842 to 1848, was examiner in the same subject at Harvard from 1853 to 1860, and lecturer at Amherst from 1859 to 1869. He was a delegate to the first international peace congress in London 1843, and in 1849 to the peace congress in Paris. He was secretary of state of Massachusetts from 1851 to 1853 and a representative in Congress 1862-63. His principal work, The Science of Wealth, attained great popularity as a textbook. Amasa's son, Francis Walker, graduated at Amherst College in 1860, studied law, and fought in the Northern army during the whole of the Civil War of 1861-65, rising from the rank of sergeant-major to that of brevet brigadier-general of volunteers -- awarded him at the request of General Winfield Scott Hancock. As a soldier he excelled in analysis of the position and strength of the enemy. In 1864 he was captured and detained for a time in the famous Libby Prison, Richmond. After the war he became editorial writer on the Springfield (Massachusetts) Republican, and in 1869 was made chief of the government bureau of statistics. He was superintendent of the ninth and tenth censuses (those of 1870 and 1880), and (1871-72) commissioner of Indian affairs. From 1873 to his death his work was educational, first as professor (1873-81) of political economy in the Sheffield Scientific School at Yale, and then as president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston. While superintendent of the census he increased the scope and accuracy of the records; and at MIT he enlarged the resources and numbers of the institution, which had 302 students when he assumed the presidency and 1198 at his death. In other fields he promoted common-school education (especially in manual training), the Boston park system, and the work of the public library, and took an active part in the discussion of monetary, economic, statistical and other public questions, holding many offices of honor and responsibility. As an author he wrote on governmental treatment of the Indians, The Wages Question (1876), Money (1878), Land and its Rent (1883) and general political economy (1883 and 1884), besides producing monographs on the life of General Hancock (1884) and the history of his own Second Army Corps (1886). As an economist, from the time of the appearance of his book on the subject, he so effectively combated the old theory of the "wage-fund" as to lead to its abandonment or material modification by American students; while in his writings on finance, from 1878 to the end of his life, he advocated international bimetallism, without, however, seeking to justify any one nation in the attempt to maintain parity between gold and silver. A rollection of posthumously published Discussions in Education (1899) was made up of essays and addresses prepared after his taking the presidency of MIT; their most noteworthy argument is that chemistry, physics and the other sciences promote a more exact and more serviceable mental training than metaphysics or rhetoric. Walker's general tendency was towards a rational conservatism. On the question of rent he called himself a "Ricardian of the Ricardians." To his Wages Question is due in great part the conception formed by English students of the place and functions of the employer in modern industrial economics. A remarkable feature of his writings is his treatment of economic tendencies not as mere abstractions, but as facts making for the happiness or misery of living men. General Walker died in Boston on the 5th of January 1897.

Father: Amasa Walker (economist, b. 1799, d. 1875)

    University: Amherst College (1860)
    Professor: Political Economy, Yale University (1873-81)
    Administrator: President, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1881-97)

    American Statistical Association President (1883-97)
    American Economic Association President (1885-92)


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