Frank William Taussig

Frank William Taussig

Taussig circa 1915
Born (1859-12-28)December 28, 1859
St. Louis, Missouri
Died November 11, 1940(1940-11-11) (aged 80)
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Nationality United States
Field International economics
Alma mater Harvard University
Influences Charles F. Dunbar
Influenced James W. Angell
Jacob Viner
Howard S. Ellis
Clifford Clark
Harry Dexter White
John H. Williams
Chester W. Wright

Frank William Taussig (December 28, 1859 – November 11, 1940) was an American economist and educator. Taussig is credited with creating the foundations of modern trade theory.

Early life

Wages and capital, 1935

He was born on December 28, 1859 in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of William Taussig and Adele Wuerpel. His parents encouraged his literary and musical interests, and he played the violin at an early age. He was educated in the St. Louis public schools and at Smith Academy in thate same city. He then went to Washington University there but, after a year transferred to Harvard from where he graduated in 1879.[1]

He traveled in Europe for a year, taking some time to study economics at the University of Berlin. He then did graduate work at Harvard in law and economics while he was secretary to President Charles W. Eliot for some years.


He got a law degree in 1886 and was appointed assistant professor at Harvard.[2] He became professor of economics in 1892, and he remained at Harvard for the balance of his professional career except for several years spent in federal service and some time spent traveling in Europe recovering from a nervous disorder.[1]


Taussig was, like most other Progressive at the time, an open advocate of forced sterilization of both inferior races and classes. In his 1911 textbook Principles of Economics, Taussing remarked: "Certain types of criminals and paupers breed only their kind, and society has a right and a duty to protect its members from the repeated burden of maintaining and guarding such parasites.... The human race could be immensely improved in quality, and its capacity for happy living immensely increased, if those of poor physical and mental endowment were prevented from multiplying."[3]

Paul Douglas (a future president of the American Economic Association) was a graduate student under Taussig at Harvard in the Fall of 1915 and recalled the experience. Douglas spent his first two years in graduate school at Columbia under Professor E. R. A. Seligman, who was an ideological enemy of Taussig. Being a favorite of Seligman, Taussig seized upon this opportunity to humiliate the young Douglas and the Columbia school of economic thought to the delight of the Harvard pupils who filled the lecture hall to witness the "slaughter." Eventually, Douglas would turn the tables and trap Taussig in a logical economic debate. Douglas recalled, "The following day, Taussig cordially shook hands with me at the end of the houe.... We also became fast friends for the rest of his life. Trying as the experience was, it was the best thing to happen to me in my academic life. It forced me to master the reasoning of the great economic theorists and to stand my ground under verbal and logical bombardment."[4]

Other positions held

He was the editor of the Quarterly Journal of Economics from 1889 to 1890 and from 1896 to 1935, president of the American Economic Association in 1904 and 1905, and chair of the United States Tariff Commission from 1917 to 1919.

In March 1919, he was called to Paris to advise in the adjustment of commercial treaties, and in November, on invitation of Woodrow Wilson, he attended the second industrial conference in Washington, D.C., for promoting peace between capital and labour. He was a strong supporter of the League of Nations.


He died on November 11, 1940, aged 80, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Taussig is buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts.


The successor to his chair at Harvard was Joseph Schumpeter. In 1888, he married Edith Thomas Guild. One of their four children was Helen B. Taussig (1898–1986), a noted pediatrician and cardiologist. F. W. Taussig's first wife died in 1910, and he married Laura Fisher.[1][2]


F. W. Taussig (second from the left) at the 1911 Harvard commencement


  1. 1 2 3 Edward S. Mason (1958). "Taussig, Frank William". Dictionary of American Biography. Supplement Two. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.
  2. 1 2 Ann T. Keene (1999). "Taussig, Frank William". American National Biography. New York: Oxford University Press.
  3. F. W. Taussig (1915). principlse of economics. pp. 236–.
  4. Douglas, Paul H. (1971). In the Fullness of Time. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. pp. 28–34.


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