Born in Edgeworthstown, County Longford, Ireland, Francis Ysidro Edgeworth did not attend school, but was educated by private tutors at the Edgeworthstown estate until he reached the age to enter university. As a student at Trinity College Dublin, and Balliol College, Oxford, Edgeworth studied ancient and modern languages. A voracious autodidact, he studied mathematics and economics only after he had completed university. He qualified as a barrister in London in 1877 but did not practise. On the basis of his publications in economics and mathematical statistics in the 1880s, Edgeworth was appointed to a chair in economics at King’s College London in 1888, and in 1891, he was appointed Drummond Professor of Political Economy at Oxford University. In 1891, he was also appointed the founding editor of The Economic Journal. He continued as editor or joint-editor until his death 35 years later.

Edgeworth was a highly influential figure in the development of neo-classical economics. He was the first to apply certain formal mathematical techniques to individual decision making in economics. He developed utility theory, introducing the indifference curve and the famous Edgeworth box, which is now familiar to undergraduate students of microeconomics. He is also known for the Edgeworth conjecture, which states that the core of an economy shrinks to the set of competitive equilibria as the number of agents in the economy gets larger. In statistics, Edgeworth is most prominently remembered by having his name on the Edgeworth series.

Key works: 1881 Mathematical Psychics: An Essay on the Application of Mathematics to the Moral Sciences, 1925 Papers relating to Political Economy (3 volumes)

Link to History of Economic Thought Website