*Fortune Tellers: The Story of America’s First Economic Forecasters*

The author is Walter A. Friedman and the Amazon link is here.  It is a good and readable look at a neglected corner of the history of economic thought, covering Roger Babson, Irving Fisher, John Moody, Warren Persons, Wesley Mitchell, and others.  Here is one bit:

At Yale, [Irving] Fisher conducted dietary experiments with student athletes in ways that no university today would allow.  These included one test that compared athletes who chewed their food thoroughly against those who did not and one that pitted the endurance of meat eaters against vegetarians.  He gained enough authority as a nutrition expert for the makers of the cereal grape-Nuts to include his endorsement in a 1907 advertisement.  It mentioned Fisher’s experiments on yale students “to determine the effects of the thorough mastication of food.”  Fisher, the ad claimed, found that their endurance was increased 50 percent, although they took no more exercise than before and has reduce their consumption of “flesh foods” by five-sixths.  Fisher also chaired a nationwide Committee of One Hundred on National Health that wrote reports and built a network of experts and public figures to agitate for “increased federal regulation of public health” — specifically, a cabinet-level department of health.

…Health, according to Fischer, deserved as much attention from economists as import and export totals.

This is a book that John P. Cullity would have enjoyed.


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