Robert Sobel


Robert Sobel

Robert Sobel (February 19 1931 – June 2, 1999) was an American professor of history at Hofstra University, and a well-known and prolific writer of business histories. He was also a chess Master, who represented the United States at the 1957 and 1958 Student chess Olympiads; he defeated thirteen-year-old future World Champion Bobby Fischer at Montreal 1956.

Biography

Sobel was born in the Bronx, in New York City, New York. He completed his B.S.S. (1951) and M.A. (1952) at City College of New York, and after serving in the U.S. Army, obtained a PhD from New York University in 1957. He started teaching at Hofstra in 1956. Sobel eventually became Lawrence Stessin Distinguished Professor of Business History at Hofstra. Since his death, the university established the "Robert Sobel Endowed Scholarship for Excellence in Business History and Finance."

Sobel's first business history, published in 1965, was "The Big Board: A History of the New York Stock Market". It was the first history of the stock market written in over a generation. The book was met with favorable reviews, and solid sales, and Sobel's writing career was launched. Several of his subsequent books were best sellers.

Besides writing more than 30 books, Sobel others, authored many articles, book reviews, and scripts for television documentaries and mini-series. From 1972 to 1988, Sobel's weekly investment column, "Knowing the Street," was nationally syndicated through New York "Newsday". He was also regularly published in national periodicals, including "The New York Times" and "The Wall Street Journal". At the time of his death, Sobel was also a contributing editor to "Barron's Magazine". He was a regular guest on financial and other news shows, such as "Wall Street Week" and "Crossfire".

Sobel was perhaps most famous for his only work of fiction, the 1973 book, "For Want of a Nail". This book is an alternate history in which Burgoyne won the Battle of Saratoga during the American Revolutionary War. This unique work was just like a real history book, but detailing the history of an alternate timeline, complete with footnotes. Sobel had authored, or co-authored, several actual text books. "For Want of a Nail" was republished in 1988 and won several science fiction awards.

But Sobel's dominant passion was Wall Street, a metaphysical neighborhood that had fascinated him since childhood. "It is as though you are walking through a historical theme park, with this engaging man at your side pointing out the sights," said Andrew Tobias, the author and investment guide, in a review in "The New York Times" of "The Last Bull Market: Wall Street in the 1960's" (W. W. Norton, 1978).

Most of Sobel's books were written for a general audience, but he never bristled when some scholarly writers dismissed him as a "popularizer," said his colleague and friend George David Smith, a professor of economic history at New York University. "Quite the contrary -- he saw that as his mission in life."

Chess master

In his younger years, Sobel reached the Master level in chess. He defeated future World Champion Bobby Fischer, who was a 13-year-old Master at the time, in the first Canadian Open Chess Championship in Montreal 1956, in a sharp attacking game (http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1044415, Robert Sobel vs Robert Fischer, Canadian Open, Montreal 1956, King's Indian Defence (A49), 1-0). In that tournament, Sobel also defeated 8-time Canadian Chess Championship winner Maurice Fox. Sobel represented the United States at the Student Olympiad, Reykjavik 1957, on the first reserve board, scoring 2.5/4 (+2 =1 -1), and the Americans placed fifth. He also played for the U.S. in the 1958 Student Olympiad at Varna, scoring 0/2 on the first reserve board, as the U.S. placed sixth (http://www.olimpbase.org/playersy/brxtvjjd.html). He tied for 3rd-4th places in the 1957 New Jersey Open Championship at East Orange, with 5.5/7, a point behind Fischer, who won the tournament and avenged his loss in Montreal to Sobel ("The Games of Robert J. Fischer", edited by Robert Wade and Kevin O'Connell, Batsford 1972, pp 138-140). Sobel seems to have given up serious competitive chess soon after beginning his career as a Hofstra professor.

elected quotations

From a February 22, 1999 "Barron's Magazine" article by Robert Sobel:

From The Great Bull Market: Wall Street in the 1920s, by Robert Sobel:

elected bibliography

Fiction

*cite book | last=Sobel | first=Robert | title =For Want of a Nail...; If Burgoyne had won at Saratoga | publisher=Macmillan | location=New York | year=1973

Non-fiction

*cite book | last=Sobel | first=Robert | title =The Origins of Interventionism: The United States and the Russo-Finnish War | publisher=Bookman Associates | location=New York | year=1960
*cite book | last=Sobel | first=Robert | title =The Big Board: A History of the New York Stock Market | publisher=Free Press | location=New York | year=1965
*cite book | last=Sobel | first=Robert | title =The French Revolution | publisher=Ardmore Press | location=New York | year=1967
*cite book | last=Sobel | first=Robert | title =The Great Bull Market: Wall Street in the 1920's | publisher=Norton | location=New York | year=1968
*cite book | last=Sobel | first=Robert | title =Panic on Wall Street: A History of America's Financial Disasters | publisher=Macmillan | location=New York | year=1968
*cite book | last=Sobel | first=Robert | title =The Automobile Makers | publisher=Putnam | location=New York | year=1969
*cite book | last=Sobel | first=Robert | title =The Curbstone Brokers: The Origins of the American Stock Exchange | publisher=Macmillan | location=New York | year=1970
*cite book | last=Sobel | first=Robert | title =Conquest And Conscience: The 1840's | publisher=Crowell | location=New York | year=1971 | id = ISBN 0-690-20939-8
*cite book | last=Sobel | first=Robert | title =Biographical directory of the United States executive branch, 1774–1971 | publisher=Greenwood Pub. Co. | location=Westport, Conn. | year=1971 | id = ISBN 0-837-15173-2
*cite book | last=Sobel | first=Robert | title=The Age of Giant Corporations: A Microeconomic History of American Business, 1914–1970 | publisher=Greenwood Press | location=Westport, Conn. | year=1972 | id = ISBN 0-837-16404-4
*cite book | last=Sobel | first=Robert | title =Machines and Morality: The 1850s | publisher= Crowell | location=New York | year=1973 | id = ISBN 0-690-00266-1
*cite book | last=Sobel | first=Robert | title =The Money Manias: The Eras of Great Speculation in America, 1770–1970| publisher=Weybright and Talley | location=New York | year=1973
*cite book | last=Sobel | first=Robert | title =The Entrepreneurs: Explorations Within the American Business Tradition | publisher=Weybright and Talley | location=New York | year=1974 | id = ISBN 0-679-40064-8
*cite book | last=Sobel | first=Robert | title =Herbert Hoover and the Onset of the Great Depression 1929–1930 | publisher=Lippincott | location=New York | year=1975 | id = ISBN 0-397-47334-6
*cite book | last=Sobel | first=Robert | title=N.Y.S.E.: a history of the New York Stock Exchange: 1935–1975 | publisher=Weybright and Talley | location=New York | year=1975 | id = ISBN 0-679-40124-5
*cite book | last=Sobel | first=Robert | title=The Manipulators: America in the Media Age | publisher=Anchor Press | location=Garden City, N.Y. | year=1976 | id = ISBN 0-385-08526-5
*cite book | last=Sobel | first=Robert | title=Inside Wall Street: Continuity and Change in the Financial District | publisher=Norton | location=New York | year=1976 | id = ISBN 0-393-05643-0
*cite book | last=Sobel | first=Robert | title=The Fallen Colossus | publisher=Weybright and Talley | location=New York | year=1977 | id = ISBN 0-679-40138-5
*cite book | last=Sobel | first=Robert | title=They Satisfy: The Cigarette in American Life | publisher=Anchor Press/Doubleday | location=New York | year=1978 | id = ISBN 0-385-12956-4
*cite book | last=Sobel | first=Robert | title=Last Bull Market: Wall Street in the 1960's | publisher=Norton | location=New York | year=1980 | id = ISBN 0-393-01309-X
*cite book | last=Sobel | first=Robert | title=The Worldly Economists | publisher=Free Press| location=New York | year=1980 | id = ISBN 0-029-29780-X
*cite book | last=Sobel | first=Robert | title=IBM: Colossus in Transition | publisher=Times Books | location=New York | year=1981 | id = ISBN 0-812-91000-1
*cite book | last=Sobel | first=Robert | title= ITT: The Management of Opportunity | publisher=Times Books | location=New York | year=1982 | id = ISBN 0-812-91028-1
*cite book | last=Sobel | first=Robert | title=Car Wars: The Untold Story | publisher=Dutton | location=New York | year=1984 | id = ISBN 0-525-24289-9
*cite book | last=Sobel | first=Robert | title=The Rise and Fall of the Conglomerate Kings | publisher=Stein and Day | location=New York | year=1984| id=ISBN 0-812-82961-1
*cite book | last=Sobel | first=Robert | title=The entrepreneurs: An American Adventure | publisher=Houghton Mifflin | location=Boston | year=1986 | id = ISBN 0-395-42020-2
*cite book | last=Sobel | first=Robert | title=IBM vs. Japan: The Struggle for the Future | publisher=Stein and Day | location=New York | year=1986 | id = ISBN 0-812-83071-7
*cite book | last=Sobel | first=Robert | title=RCA | publisher=Stein and Day | location=New York | year=1986 | id = ISBN 0-812-83084-9
*cite book | last=Sobel | first=Robert | title=Salomon Brothers, 1910–1985: Advancing to Leadership | publisher=Salomon Brothers | location=New York | year=1986
*cite book | last=Sobel | first=Robert | title=The New Game on Wall Street | publisher=Wiley | location=New York | year=1987 | id=ISBN 0-471-84527-2
*cite book | last=Sobel | first=Robert | title=Quality of Earnings: the Investor's Guide to How Much Money a Company is Really Making | publisher=Free Press | location=New York | year=1987 | id=ISBN 0-029-22630-9
*cite book | last=Sobel | first=Robert | title=Biographical Directory of the Council of Economic Advisers | publisher=Greenwood Press | location=New York | year=1988 | id=ISBN 0-313-22554-0
*cite book | last=Sobel | first=Robert | title=Trammell Crow, Master Builder: The Story of America's Largest Real Estate Empire | publisher=Wiley | location=New York | year=1989 | id=ISBN 0-471-61326-6
*cite book | last=Sobel | first=Robert | title=Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States 1983/88 | publisher=Meckler | location=Westport, Conn. | year=1989 | id = ISBN 0-930-46600-4
*cite book | last=Sobel | first=Robert | title=Biographical directory of the United States executive branch, 1774–1989 | publisher=Greenwood Press | location=New York | year=1990 | id=ISBN 0-313-26593-3
*cite book | last=Sobel | first=Robert | title=The Life and Times of Dillon Read | publisher=Truman Talley Books/Dutton | location=New York | year=1991 | id=ISBN 0-525-24959-1
*cite book | last=Sobel | first=Robert | title=Dangerous Dreamers: The Financial Innovators from Charles Merrill to Michael Milken | publisher=Wiley | location=New York | year=1993 | id=ISBN 0-471-57734-0
*cite book | last=Sobel | first=Robert | title=Coolidge: An American Enigma | publisher=Regnery Pub. | location=Washington, D.C. | year=1998 | id=ISBN 0-895-26410-2
*cite book | last=Sobel | first=Robert | title=When Giants Stumble: Classic Business Blunders and How to Avoid Them | publisher=Prentice Hall | location=Paramus, N.J. | year=1999 | id=ISBN 0-735-20059-9
*cite book | last=Sobel | first=Robert | title=The Pursuit of Wealth: The Incredible Story of Money Throughout the Ages of Wealth | publisher=McGraw-Hill | location=New York | year=2000 | id=ISBN 0-585-18949-8
*cite book | last=Sobel | first=Robert | title=AMEX: A History of the American Stock Exchange | publisher=BeardBooks | location=Washington, D.C. | year=2000 | id=ISBN 1-893-12248-4
*cite book | last=Sobel | first=Robert | title=Thomas Watson, Sr.: IBM and the Computer Revolution | publisher=BeardBooks | location=Washington, DC | year=2000 | id = ISBN 1-893-12282-4
*cite book | last=Sobel | first=Robert | title=The Great Boom 1950–2000: How a Generation of Americans Created the World's Most Prosperous Society | publisher=St.Martin's Press | location=New York | year=2000 | id=ISBN 0-312-20890-1
*cite book | last=Sobel | first=Robert | coauthors=Roger Lowenstein, Louis Rukeyser | title=Crashes, Booms, Panics and Government Regulation | publisher=Blackstone Audiobooks | location=Ashland, Or. | year=2006 | id=ISBN 0-786-16489-1

Fan sites

* [http://www.kebe.com/for-all-nails/index.html "For All Nails"] "Sobel-heads" flesh out or extend the history from the book "For Want of a Nail".
* [http://www.johnreilly.info/fwoan.htm Alternative History] "Sobel, must be numbered with Tolkien among the handful of creators of a complete imaginary world."

External links

* [http://www.beardbooks.com/beard_books_robert_sobel.html Beard Books Tribute to Robert Sobel]
* [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B00E1D71439F937A35755C0A96F958260&n=Top/Reference/Times%20Topics/People/H/Henriques,%20Diana%20B "Robert Sobel, 68, a Historian of Business, Dies,"] New York Times, 4 June 1999.
* [http://www.booknotes.org/Transcript/?ProgramID=1478 "Booknotes"] Transcript and archived copy of Brian Lamb's detailed television interview of Robert Sobel concerning his best selling book, "Coolidge: An American Enigma"

References

*Hand, Judson, "If Washington Hadn't Been the Father of His Country," Sunday (New York Daily) News, 18 February 1973.
*Henriques, Diana B., "Robert Sobel, 68, a Historian of Business, Dies," New York Times, 4 June 1999, page C-18; 1999 WLNR 3054857.
*MacGregor, Martha, "The Week in Books," New York Post, 31 March 1973.
*Sicilia, DB, "Remembering Robert Sobel (1931-1999)" [http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=907169 Enterprise & Society: The International Journal of Business History] , Vol. 1, Issue 1, pp. 182-187, (March 2000).
*Skow, John, "Parlor Games," Time, 9 April 1973.


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