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Kelvin Lancaster

Kelvin John Lancaster was a mathematical economist. He is best known for two powerful contributions to economic theory, and they were felt far beyond the world of theoreticians. The first one is the development of the Theory of the Second Best with Richard Lipsey. The second one is his analysis of consumer demand, that was later named as characteristic theory of consumer behavior.
  • Background

    He died at the age of 74 of cancer.
  • Education

    • After the war, he continued his studies, which were very wide-ranging in keeping with his insatiable intellectual curiosity.At Sydney University, he studied geology and mathematics as well as English literature. He felt that "analysis" would serve to untangle the intricacies of literature just as well as the structures of mathematics. Besides a degree in mathematics in 1948, he received bachelor’s (1949) and master’s degrees in English Literature in 1952, so impressing the faculty that he was offered a position teaching English Literature at the University of Sydney, but he declined it. In 1953 he sat for the economics exam at London University and attained a First, which was very unusual for an external candidate. He was subsequently appointed Assistant Lecturer at the London School of Economics. When Lord Robbins (a lecturer in London School of Economics) , in his legendary seminar, called for an analysis of a particularly difficult paper Kelvin volunteered to tackle it; he found a flaw in the argument, developed the solution and presented the results. At the time he was entirely self-taught in economics. He received his Ph.D. in economics from the University of London in 1958. He received his Ph.D. in economics from the University of London in 1958.


    • John Lancaster after receiving master’s degrees in English Literature was offered a position teaching English Literature at the University of Sydney. But he decided instead to join a research organization, Research Services of Australia, where he worked as an associate (later director) in statistics and economics. There was a need to develop economic indices for a government project, and he developed an index that is still in use in Australia. The nuts-and-bolts work that he did as a researcher led him to become intensely interested in economic theory, which he proceeded to study on his own.

      After moving to London hee was subsequently appointed Assistant Lecturer at the London School of Economics. To counter his youth and youthful appearance he took up the pipe. His concern about making an impression was unwarranted, however, since he immediately gained a reputation for brilliance.

      After serving as Lecturer and then Reader at the London School of Economics, he moved to the United States in 1961, first to Johns Hopkins and in 1966 to Columbia where he remained for the rest of his career. e was twice Chairman of the Economics Department. Among the many graduate and undergraduate courses that he taught was a very popular seminar on Economics and Philosophy jointly with the philosopher Sidney Morgenbesser.


    • Fellow Econometric Society

    • American Academy Arts and Scis.

    • American Economic Association (distinguished); New York State Economic Association (president 1974-75).
      1974 - 1975



    Other interests: athletics, llifeguard competitions, photograph, model-building


    • R.G. Lipsey & Kelvin Lancaster, 1956 - 1957. "The General Theory of Second Best," article
    • Kelvin J. Lancaster, 1966. "A New Approach to Consumer Theory." Article in "Journal of Political Economy"
    • Kelvin J. Lancaster, Сonsumer Demands: A New Approach, Columbia University Press, 1971 book
    • Kelvin J. Lancaster, Introduction to Modern Microeconomics, Rand McNally, 1969 textbook
    • Kelvin J. Lancaster, Variety, Equity and Efficiency, Columbia University Press, 1979 book
    • Kelvin J. Lancaster, Foundation of Economic Analysis Article\Work
    • Kelvin J. Lancaster, 1968. Mathematical Economics, Macmillan. textbook


    • Mother: Margaret
    • Father: John
    • first wife: Lorraine Cross
    • second wife: Deborah Grunfeld - lawer
      They married in 1963. She was the widow of the economist Yehuda Grunfeld. Their marriage was a happy one.
    • Son: Clifton Lancaster - Statistician
    • Son: Gilead Lancaster - cardiologist
    • Lecturer: Lionel Charles Robbins
      London School of Economics
    • Collegue, Co-author: Richard George Lipsey
      They worked together on The Theory of Second Best
    • Friend, collegue: Sidney Morgenbesser
      They together conducted a very popular seminar on Economics and Philosophy in Columbia University.
    Born December 10, 1924
    Died July 23, 1999
    (aged 74)
    • 1952
      studied at Sydney University, Bachelor of Science (1948); Bachelor of Arts (1949); Master of Arts (1952)
    • 1940 - 1940
      studied at Sydney Boys High School
    • 1952 - 1953
      Associate (later director) in statistics and economics, Research Services of Australia
    • 1953 - 1958
      studied at London University, Economics, Bachelor of Science (1953); Doctor of Philosophy (1958)
    • 1954 - 1959
      Assistant, London School Economics
    • 1954 - 1959
      lecturer, London School Economics
    • 1959 - 1962
      reader economics, London University
    • 1961 - 1966
      professor, Johns Hopkins University
    • 1966 - 1978
      professor, Columbia University
    • 1970 - 1973
      chairman, Economics Department in Columbia University
    • 1989 - 1990
      Charman, Economics Department in Columbia University
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    Marina Kiselyova last changed 12/11/2012 view changes
    • Activities
      • educator
      • economist
      • scholar
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