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W. E. Johnson's 1913 Paper and the Question of his Knowledge of Pareto

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 June 2009

Ivan Moscati
Affiliation:
Bocconi University, Department of Economics, Via Gobbi 5, 20136 Milano, Italy.

Extract

In December 1913, William Ernest Johnson (1858–1931), a Cambridge logician, published a famous article on demand theory in the Economic Journal (EJ) entitled “The Pure Theory of Utility Curves.” Although Johnson's treatment of the subject was in some ways original, in others it strongly resembled the analysis set forth by Vilfredo Pareto in earlier contributions, particularly in the Manuel d'économie politique (Italian edition 1906, French edition 1909). Despite this resemblance, Johnson did not cite Pareto. This failure to acknowledge Pareto's precedence aroused resentment and some suspicion of plagiarism among the Italian Paretians. In the end, however, the Paretian economists of the period generally assumed that Johnson was unfamiliar with Pareto's works and had obtained his results independently. For example, in 1916, Luigi Amoroso published a review of Johnson's 1913 paper in the Giornale degli Economisti, in which he wrote, “From Johnson's article it comes out that Johnson does not know Pareto's work” (Amoroso 1916, p. 410, author's translation). Amoroso attributed Johnson's ignorance of Pareto's work to a more general ignorance on the part of English economists, “Johnson's lacuna, more than particular to him, is a lacuna of the area in which he lives” (Amoroso 1916, p. 410, author's translation).

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The History of Economics Society 2005

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