Ragnar Frisch

Ragnar Frisch

[frish; Ger., Norw. frish]
Frisch, Ragnar, 1895-1973, Norwegian economist, corecipient with Jan Tinbergen of the first Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences (1969). Educated at the Univ. of Oslo (M.A., 1919; Ph.D., 1926), Frisch was briefly a visiting professor at Yale (1930). In 1931 he returned to the Univ. of Oslo as professor of economics, a post he held until his retirement (1965). While at the university, he helped to found (1931) the Econometric Society and was editor (1933-55) of the journal Econometrica. A major figure in the development of econometrics, Frisch did much to facilitate the application of statistics to economic theory.

Ragnar Anton Kittil Frisch (March 3, 1895 January 31, 1973) was a Norwegian economist.


Ragnar Frisch was born on March 3, 1895 in Oslo as the son of gold- and silversmith Anton Frisch and Ragna Fredrikke b. Kittilsen. Being expected to continue his family business, Frisch became an apprentice in the David Andersen workshop in Oslo. However, at his mother's advice, while doing his apprenticeship Frisch also started studying at the University of Oslo. His chosen topic was economics, as it seemed to be "the shortest and easiest study" available at the university, and passed his degree in 1919. In 1920 he also passed his handicraftsman tests and became a partner in his father's workshop.

In 1921 Frisch received a fellowship from the university which enabled him to spend three years studying economics and mathematics in France and England. After his return to Norway, in 1923, although the family's business was having difficulties, he continued his scientific activity, feeling that research, not jewellery, is his real calling. He published a few papers in probability theory, started teaching at the University of Oslo in 1925 and, in 1926, he gained his Ph. D with a thesis in mathematical statistics.

Also in 1926, Frisch published an article outlining his view that economics should follow the same path towards theoretical and empirical quantization that other sciences, especially physics, had followed. In the same year, he published his seminal article "Sur un problème d'économie pure" starting the implementation of his own quantization programme. The article offered theoretical axiomatizations which lead to a precise specification of both ordinal and cardinal utility, followed by an empirical estimation of the cardinal specification. Frisch also started lecturing a course on production theory introducing a mathematization of the subject.

Frisch received a fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation to visit the United States in 1927. There, he looked for other economists interested in the new mathematical and statistical approaches to economics, making contacts with Irving Fisher, Wesley Clair Mitchell, Allyn Young and Henry Schultz. He wrote a paper analyzing the role of investment in explaining economic fluctuations. Wesley Mitchell, who had just written a book on business cycles, popularized widely Frisch's paper which was introducing new advanced methods.

Although his fellowship was extended to travel to Italy and France, the next year Frisch had to return to Norway because of his father's death. He spent one year to modernize and recapitalize the workshop by selling family assets and to find a jeweller to manage the business for him. Then he returned to academic work, in 1928 being appointed Associate Professor in statistics and economics at the Oslo University. In 1927 and 1928 Frisch published a series of articles on the statistics of time series. In 1929 he published his first important essay on econometric methodology, "Correlation and scatter in statistical variables", followed in the same year by "Statics and dynamics in economic theory", which introduced dynamics in economic analysis.

Frisch became a full Professor at the university in 1931. He also founded at the university the Rockefeller-funded Institute of Economics in 1932 and became its Director of Research.

Frisch married Marie Smedal in 1920 and they had a daughter, Ragna. His granddaughter, Nadia Hasnoui (Ragna's child), became a Norwegian TV personality. After his first wife died in 1952, he remarried in 1953 with childhood friend Astrid Johannessen.

Ragnar Frisch received the Antonio Feltrinelli prize from the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei in 1961 and the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1969 (awarded jointly to Jan Tinbergen) for "having developed and applied dynamic models for the analysis of economic processes".


Frisch was one of the founders of economics as a modern science. He made a number of significant advances in the field of economics and coined a number of new words including econometrics and macroeconomics. His 1926 paper on consumer theory helped set up Neo-Walrasian research. He formalized production theory (1965). In econometrics he worked on time series (1927) and linear regression analysis (1934). With Frederick Waugh, he introduced the celebrated Frisch-Waugh theorem (Econometrica 1993) (sometimes referred to as the Frisch-Waugh-Lovell theorem). His 1933 work on impulse-propagation business cycles was one of the principles behind modern New Classical business cycle theory. He also played a role in introducing econometric modeling to government economic planning and accounting. He was one of the founders of the Econometric Society and editor of Econometrica for over twenty years. The Frisch Medal, so named in his honor, is given every two years for the best paper published in the aforementioned Econometrica in the previous five years.

Frisch's most important hobby was bee-keeping. In it, Frisch undertook genetic studies.

Selected publications

  • Frisch, Ragnar (1926). "Kvantitativ formulering av den teoretiske økonomikks lover [Quantitative formulation of the laws of economic theory]". Statsøkonomisk Tidsskrift 40 299–334.
  • Frisch, Ragnar (1926). "Sur un problème d'économie pure [On a problem in pure economics]". Norsk Matematisk Forenings Skrifter, Oslo 1 (16): 1–40.
  • Frisch, Ragnar (1927). "Sammenhengen mellem primærinvestering og reinvestering [The relationship between primary investment and reinvestment]". Statsøkonomisk Tidsskrift 41 117–152.
  • Frisch, Ragnar (1929). "Correlation and scatter in statistical variables". Nordic Statistical Journal 1 36–102.
  • Frisch, Ragnar (1929). "Statikk og dynamikk i den økonomiske teori [Statics and dynamics in economic theory]". Nationaløkonomisk Tidsskrift 67 321–379.

There is a bibliography of Frisch's wrtings up to 1960 in

  • Kenneth J. Arrow "The Work of Ragnar Frisch, Econometrician," Econometrica, Vol. 28, No. 2. (Apr., 1960), pp. 175-192

and there is a collection of selected essays

  • Olav Bjerkholt(ed.) (1995) Foundations of Modern Econometrics: The Selected Essays of Ragnar Frisch, 2 volumes, Aldershot, UK: Edward Elgar.

See also


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