Usually I find books like this only in my dreams

by on May 28, 2005 at 7:51 am in Books | Permalink

Fischer Black and the Revolutionary Idea of Finance, by Perry Mehrling.

Fischer Black spanned the worlds of academia and finance.  His formula for the pricing of options remains essential on Wall Street.  His macroeconomic theories — which claim money does not matter, not even for the price level (more on this soon) — are still regarded as crazy.  His personal life sounds like that of a high-functioning Asperger’s:

He did almost all of his work in an outlining program called ThinkTank, which he used as a kind of external associative emmory to supplement his own.  Everything he read, every conversation he had, every thought that occurred, everything got summarized and added to the data base that swelled eventually to 20 million bytes organized in 2000 alphabetical files…Reading, discussion and thinking that Fischer did outside the office was recorded on slips to paper to be entered into the database later.  Reading, discussion, and thinking that took place inside the office was recorded directly.  While he was on the phone, he was typing.  While he was talking to you in person, he was typing.  Sometimes he even typed while he was interviewing a prospective job candidate, looking at the screen not the candidate.

Robert Skidelsky and Sylvia Nasar raised the bar for economic biographies some time ago.  This book is the next step in that chain.  Pre-order it here, in the meantime here is a Perry Mehrling paper "Understanding Fischer Black."

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