Peter Temin


Peter Temin

Dr. Peter Temin (born 1937) is a widely cited economist and economic historian, currently Elisha Gray II Professor of Economics, MIT and former head of the Economics Department. Dr. Temin graduated with highest honors from Swarthmore College in 1959 before earning his Ph.D. at MIT in 1964. Beginning in the 1960s and early 1970s he published on American economic history in the 19th century, including "The Jacksonian Economy" and "Casual Factors in American Economic Growth in the Nineteenth Century", as well as "Reckoning with Slavery", which was an examination of the slave economy and its effects. His papers of the 1960s would reflect intense empirical study as part of his working method, including composition of Iron and Steel products, which would later be part of his analysis of industrial development. He continued his study of 19th century industrialization with "Engines of Enterprise".

Two of Dr. Temin's most cited conclusions in this area are on the relationship of Labor scarcity to economic development, and the role of general equilibrium models in studying economic history. He would apply the conclusions drawn to his study of the business cycle in the 19th century.

In 1971 he authored a paper on Central Banks and Economic and Social Welfare programs, whose conclusions were a foreshadowing of what is probably his most influential and best known work: "Did Monetary Forces Cause the Great Depression?" (1976). This work hypothesized that it was the actions of the Federal Reserve in response to the economic downturn of 1930 which turned a recession into the most far reaching slump in the modern economic period. He would later revisit this thesis in his 1989 work "Lessons from the Great Depression", as well as publish several papers building on his conclusions.

His 1987 empirical survey of AT&T, entitled "The Fall of the Bell System" has had an impact on how new entrepreneurial businesses are viewed.

Professor Temin is the brother of the late geneticist Howard Temin, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 1975 for the discovery of reverse transcriptase.


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