We are very sad to report that Frank Hahn, who was a PhD student at LSE, and a professor in the Department of Economics at LSE from 1967 to 1972, died earlier this week at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, after a short illness.
Frank received his PhD from the LSE in 1951, having studied under Nicholas Kaldor and Lionel Robbins. After lecturing at the University of Birmingham from 1948-60, he spent six years in Cambridge, as a Lecturer at the Faculty of Economics and Politics, and a Fellow of Churchill College, before being offered an economics professorship at the LSE in 1967. He returned to Cambridge in 1972, where he spent the majority of his career as a Professor of Economics until he retired in 1992; he was also Professor Ordinario at the University of Siena from 1989.
Frank had a distinguished record of achievement in theoretical economics, carrying out pioneering work in market analysis, monetary economics, coordination failure, multiple equilibria, the microeconomic foundations of macroeconomics, equilibrium and optimality with missing markets, conjectural equilibria and much else besides, but in his preface to the 1992 collection of essays in Frank’s honour, “Economic Analysis of Markets and Games”, Douglas Gale recognized that one of the things that distinguished his work was that his motivation often came from practical concerns about unemployment, savings and investment, poverty, or the stability of markets.
As for his colleagues in the Economics Department at LSE, Nick Stern remembers Frank as “funny, outrageous and penetrating as well as great economist”, and has many fond memories of him.
“I remember at the IEA Jerusalem 1970 conference on growth, there was an intervention in French. An American, who shall be nameless, asked for a translation, and Frank suggested it was unnecessary: "I think you can assume we have all had a modicum of education". Dealing with an econometrician who thought the problem was one of estimation technique, he said "Tenth stage least squares will not help you if the model is senseless", and some advice he gave 40 years ago on understanding our subject has always stayed with me: "a model is just a sentence in an argument".”
In a similar vein, Frank Cowell recalls “a Churchill seminar given by Gérard Debreu on some particularly abstruse point in GE modelling, during which several in the audience (which contained other Nobel prize winners) were unconvinced of Debreu's main point. So Hahn helpfully clarified: "look Gérard it's 1973 and the UK economy is in equilibrium. You take away one of my bananas. What happens?"
Some final thoughts from Nick Stern: “He taught us so much and gave us so much fun. And he was a kind man even though he often did his best to conceal it. We will miss him very much but his lessons are with us. Our thoughts are with Dorothy.”
A funeral service for Frank Hahn will be held on Friday, 8th February, at 2.00pm, in Churchill College Chapel for family and close friends, followed by burial at the Arbory Trust Woodland site in Barton. A Memorial Service will be arranged for a later date. Donations in his memory may be made to Churchill College c/o Co-operative Funeralcare, 34 James Street, Cambridge, CB1 1HX.