Person: Keynes, John Maynard
John Maynard Keynes published works on probability, but is best known as an economist.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- John Nevile published Formal Logic four months after John Maynard was born.
- It is worth commenting at this stage that, although John Maynard Keynes lived to the age of 63, his parents both outlived him.
- At the age of seven, Keynes entered Perse School Kindergarten but he learnt more from lessons given at home.
- The following year Keynes sat the entrance examination for Eton and came tenth out of the twenty boys who were accepted into the school in that year.
- Keynes enjoyed his school days in Eton.
- Keynes did well at Eton winning the Senior Mathematics Prize in 1899, and again in 1900.
- Before we leave our description of Keynes' time at Eton, we should note that it was here that he continued with one of his passions (begun at the age of twelve), namely collecting old books.
- At Cambridge Keynes was tutored mathematics by E W Hobson whom he called "Hobbema".
- Immediately following taking the Tripos examinations, Keynes began a serious study of economics, reading major texts on the subject.
- The top person had first choice of which department to enter, and chose to enter the treasury (which Keynes would have done had he come top).
- Keynes, with the next choice, entered the India Office.
- Keynes was very unhappy when he received detailed results of the examination.
- The India Office did not provide a career to Keynes' liking.
- Johnson and Whitehead were appointed as assessors of the dissertation but, after a close contest in March 1908, Keynes was not elected.
- Using the detailed comments on his probability dissertation by both Johnson and Whitehead, Keynes worked hard to improve it.
- After submitting a new version of his dissertation on probability, Keynes was elected to a Fellowship in March 1909.
- Keynes now taught economics at Cambridge.
- Whether Pearson or Keynes had the better scientific case is open to question, but there is no doubt that Keynes was by far the more skilful in his style of letter writing, making Pearson (probably unfairly) look rather silly.
- Keynes also wrote on economics related to India and he published a major book Indian Currency and Finance in 1913.
- Keynes was appointed secretary of a Commission to examine Indian Finance and Currency in 1913 and he began to seek a publisher for his major treatise on probability based on his fellowship dissertation.
- In many ways these war years saw Keynes at the height of his powers and at his most influential.
- After the war ended, Keynes represented the Treasury at the Versailles Peace Conference, but, in June 1919, he resigned on the grounds that the proposals being put forward for German reparations were both unfair and impractical.
- In 1920 Keynes began to prepare his Treatise on Probability for publication.
- In 1926 Ramsey published a paper Truth and probability arguing against these arguments of Keynes.
- Other important ideas discussed by Keynes in Treatise on Probability is that probability relations forms only a partially ordered set in the sense that two probabilities cannot necessarily always be compared.
- Keynes also argues that probability is a basic concept which cannot be reduced to other concepts.
- Another important period of Keynes' career was during the 1930s.
- Keynes first major work which indicates the direction his ideas were taking away from the conventional approach was A Treatise on Money published in 1930.
- By 1937 Keynes' health began to deteriorate.
- There are a couple of other aspects of Keynes' interests which we should comment on.
- Keynes wrote an article Newton, the Man for the celebrations.
- Unlike most accounts of Newton's life and work which concentrate on Newton's achievements in mathematics and physics, Keynes gave equal weight to Newton's writings on alchemy and religion.
- In 1942 Keynes was elevated to the peerage and took his seat in the House of Lords, where he sat on the Liberal benches.
Born 5 June 1883, Cambridge, England. Died 21 April 1946, Firle, Sussex, England.
View full biography at MacTutor
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Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive