Frank Hahn

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Frank Hahn
Frank Hahn.jpg
Born(1925-04-26)26 April 1925
Berlin, Germany
Died29 January 2013(2013-01-29) (aged 87)
Cambridge, England
Institutions University of Birmingham
Cambridge University
London School of Economics
Alma mater London School of Economics
Nicholas Kaldor
Lionel Robbins
Christopher Bliss
Douglas Gale
Edwin Mills (economist)
James Mirrlees
David Newbery
Stephen Nickell
Subroto Roy (economist)
Hamid Sabourian
Anthony Shorrocks
Contributions General equilibrium theory, critique of monetarism, monetary theory, Keynesian economics, Non-Walrasian economics, "Hahn's problem", Stability of general equilibrium
Information at IDEAS / RePEc

Frank Horace Hahn FBA (26 April 1925 – 29 January 2013) was a British economist whose work focused on general equilibrium theory, monetary theory, Keynesian economics and critique of monetarism. [1] [2] A famous problem of economic theory, the conditions under which money, which is intrinsically worthless, can have a positive value in a general equilibrium, is called "Hahn's problem" after him. One of Hahn's main abiding concerns was the understanding of Keynesian (Non-Walrasian) outcomes in general equilibrium situations.



Early life and education

Frank Hahn was born on 26 April 1925 in Berlin to Arnold and Maria Hahn, their roots in German and Czech speaking Jewish communities respectively. Arnold Hahn was a chemist by profession and a writer. Arnold and Maria Hahn with their two sons, Peter and Frank, moved to Prague in 1931 (or possibly 1934) and left for England in 1938.

Frank's older brother was Peter Hahn (8 Nov 1923-28 Aug 2007) who became an eminent Czech research physiologist who had returned to Czechoslovakia after the War but was compelled to flee to Canada after the Prague Spring in 1968 in which he was active.

Peter and Frank were educated at Bournemouth School from when they were 15, 13 respectively, a school for which Frank retained an abiding enthusiasm. Peter started at Swansea University but joined the Czechoslovak squadron of the RAF during the War. Frank too became a navigator in the RAF in the Second World War, then resumed his interrupted higher education, not reading Mathematics at Balliol College, Oxford, but instead reading Economics at the London School of Economics. He met at LSE and in 1946 married Dorothy Salter, also an economist and secretary to FA Hayek. Frank started his teaching career with a lectureship at Birmingham in 1948. [3]

Frank Hahn took his doctoral degree in 1951 at the London School of Economics (LSE) for the thesis The share of wages: an enquiry into the theory of distribution, where he was supervised initially by Nicholas Kaldor and later by Lionel Robbins. [4] As a student, he had been part of the Hayek–Robbins seminar at LSE, and he once said his wife had been an original member of the Mont Pelerin Society. [5]


Hahn began his teaching career in 1948 at the University of Birmingham, where he was subsequently elected Reader in Mathematical Economics. In 1960 he joined the University of Cambridge—as a Fellow of the new Churchill College and as University Lecturer in Economics. [6]

In 1967 he was appointed Professor at the London School of Economics (though he apparently continued to reside in Cambridge). Five years later he left the LSE appointment to become Professor at Cambridge. His inaugural lecture at Cambridge "On the notion of equilibrium in economics" was delivered on 28 February 1973. He remained Professor of Economics at Cambridge until his retirement in 1992, though he made near-annual visits to the US, especially as visiting professor at Harvard University, the MIT, and the University of California, Berkeley, as well as to Stanford's Institute of Mathematical Studies in the Social Sciences. [6] From 1990 to 1996 Hahn directed the PhD program of the Economics Department at the University of Siena. He eventually became emeritus professor at Cambridge. [4]

Famous letter

He gained widespread recognition and attention in 1981 as the co-instigator of a letter to The Times signed by 364 of Britain's best-known economists, questioning Margaret Thatcher's economic policy, with a warning that it would only result in deepening the prevailing depression.

Influence and leanings

Frank Hahn, by his own admission, was influenced in economics by John Hicks, W. M. Gorman, Takashi Negishi and Kenneth Arrow among others. He in turn influenced a large number of colleagues and students. [3]


He died in Cambridge on 29 January 2013, following a short illness. [2] He is survived by his wife Dorothy, née Salter, whom he had married in 1946.

Major works

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  1. Enciclopedia italiana di scienze, lettere ed arti, Volume 2, 1938, p. 548.
  2. 1 2 "Professor Frank Hahn: 1925 – 2013/". Churchill College, Cambridge. January 2013. Retrieved 31 January 2013.
  3. 1 2 From a Draft dated 1988. A slightly revised version was published with the title "Autobiographical Notes with Reflections," in Eminent Economists: their Life Philosophies, edited by Michael Szenberg, Cambridge University Press, 1992.
  4. 1 2 Marcello Basili and Carlo Zappia (2005). "An interview with Frank Hahn on the occasion of his 80th birthday" (PDF). Storia del Pensiero Economico. 2 (2): 13–18. ISSN   1828-1990. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 October 2013. Retrieved 31 January 2013.
  5. F. A. Hayek acknowledged the help of "Miss Dorothy Salter (now Mrs. F. H. Hahn)" in his Introduction to J. S. Mill's Letters.
  6. 1 2 "Professor Frank Hahn MA, PhD, FBA". Churchill College, Cambridge . Retrieved 31 January 2013.
  7. Frank Hahn (December 1984). Money and Inflation. MIT Press. ISBN   978-0-262-58062-5.