Milton Friedman’s early life

“He was born in Brooklyn in 1912. His parents had been poor immigrants from Carpatho-Ruthenia. Milton and his three sisters grew up in Rahway, New Jersey, where his parents earned a modest living as merchants. His father died when he was a senior in high school, but a state scholarship permitted him to go to Rutgers College, which was then a small private school.

“A high school teacher had taught him to love mathematics, and, like Kenneth Arrow about a decade later, he prepared for a career as an insurance actuary. At the same time, economics courses by Arthur F. Burns, later Federal Reserve Chairman, and Homer Jones, later research director of the Federal Reserve Bank of Saint Louis, aroused his interest in economics. Eventually he majored in both fields.

“Upon graduation in 1932, influenced partly by his teachers and partly by the Depression, Friedman chose a tuition fellowship in economics over one in applied mathematics at Brown University. He described Jacob Viner’s first-year graduate course in economics as the greatest intellectual experience of his life. One of his classmates was Rose Director, who later became his wife, his life-long collaborator, and mother of his two children.”

This is from David Warsh, quoting Jurg Niehans.

I can only say that our gain is the insurance industry’s loss. Warsh’s columns are consistently excellent, you can get a free subscription by following the link above.


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