Ken Arrow and the Annual Review of Economics

From Sam Gubins, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus, Annual Reviews

Kenneth Arrow.

It is achingly sad to report the passing of Kenneth Arrow. As described by Michael Weinstein in Monday’s New York Times, Ken Arrow was a brilliant economist, the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Prize for Economics. He was also the founding Co-Editor of the Annual Review of Economics.

At a lunch at the Stanford Faculty Club in April, 2007, I invited Ken to launch an Annual Review in economics. Although Annual Reviews had been publishing journals in the social sciences for several decades, none were in economics. While this publishing house is well known in many disciplines, it was largely unknown among economists. For this reason I was concerned that Ken would be unconvinced of the need for extended reviews written by leading economists, and additionally, that leading economists would not easily be persuaded to write them. Ken quickly dispelled both concerns. He said that he was a regular reader of articles in many Annual Reviews series and understood how valuable they were in synthesizing developments in fields. He had been introduced to them by the sociologist Robert K. Merton and the psychologist Gardner Lindzey. In addition to the social science journals, Ken read articles in several Annual Reviews, including Public Health, Neuroscience, Environment, Ecology, and others. So to my request that he take on the task of serving as inaugural editor, he agreed enthusiastically, inviting Timothy Bresnahan to serve as a Co-Editor.

Most of those he invited to join him on the inaugural editorial committee were unfamiliar with Annual Reviews, yet all agreed to serve.  And most of those invited to write reviews accepted and delivered a manuscript.  Ken was so beloved and revered that the community was eager to join any endeavor of which he was a part.

His colleagues persuaded Ken to write an essay for Volume 1, Some Developments in Economic Theory Since 1940: An Eyewitness Account, which is a personal reflection on his relationship to the development of economic theory over 70 years.

Tim Bresnahan captured the essence of Ken when he wrote, “he was a great man, a great colleague, and a great economist.” We were privileged to have known him.

Photo credit: Linda A. Cicero / Stanford News Service, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.