Management; Economics: Los Angeles 1898-1977
Professor of Management Science and Economics, Emeritus
Jacob Marschak, known affectionately as Jascha to a host of friends ranging over many nationalities, professions, and ages, died suddenly at the age of seventy-nine on July 27, 1977. Vigorous, creative, and young in spirit to the very last, he passed away while busily engaged in his duties as president-elect of the American Economic Association and actively pursuing many ongoing writing and research projects.
Jacob Marschak was born in Kiev, Russia on July 23, 1898. He was the youngest of five children in a comfortably well-off, intellectually oriented Jewish family. Engaged in anti-czarist activity as a youth, he was imprisoned for some months before being liberated by the February 1917 revolution that overthrew the monarchy. But he was equally opposed to the Bolshevik dictatorship that took over in November 1917. For a brief time he was active in the independent democratic government that survived for a period in the Caucasus. After this regime was crushed by Soviet forces, he emigrated to Germany, where he completed his education by receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Heidelberg in 1922. In the 1920s he held positions at a number of universities and economic research institutes in Germany; in addition, from 1924 to 1928 he was a leading writer on economic policy for the Frankfurter Zeitung. Also on the staff of that outstanding newspaper during this period was Marianne Kamnitzer; she and Jascha were married in 1927. Their daughter Ann was born in 1928, and son Thomas in 1930. When the Nazis took power in 1933, Jascha emigrated for the second time. In Britain he was associated with Oxford University, serving as director of the Oxford Institute of Statistics in the period 1935-39.
Leaving for the United States in 1940, Jascha became professor of economics at the New School for Social Research (1940-42), and then at the University of Chicago (1943-55). At Chicago he was associated with the Cowles Commission for Research in Economics, where he served as its director from 1943 to 1948. When the Cowles Commission moved to Yale in 1955, Jascha went with it and remained a professor of economics at Yale until 1960. In that year he came to UCLA, with a joint appointment as Professor in the School of Business Administration (now Graduate School of Management) and the Department of Economics. Becoming Emeritus in 1965, he was regularly recalled to active service. He was also director of the Western Management Science Institute in 1965-69, and remained its moving spirit thereafter.
One activity at UCLA very close to his heart was the Interdisciplinary Colloquium on Mathematics in the Behavioral Sciences, which met as a biweekly seminar for over fifteen years under his leadership and attracted distinguished speakers in all fields and aspects of the behavioral sciences. This colloquium has been renamed the Jacob Marschak Interdisciplinary Colloquium on Mathematics in the Behavioral Sciences, and its ongoing activity will serve as a living memorial to him.
Jacob Marschak's work ranged over a great variety of topics in a long and productive intellectual career. Starting in the 1930s, his articles on measurement of economic variables and estimation of economic relationships provided foundation stones for the field now known as econometrics. Other early papers made seminal contributions to the theory of asset holding, with particular reference to demand for money and liquidity under conditions of incomplete information. This led to a third phase of his work, which combined axiomatic and experimental approaches to rational decision making under uncertainty. From this he moved to the topic of interindividual communication of information, and by a further extension, to the problem of optimal organization for collective decision. The work of this fourth phase was summarized in the classic monograph Economic Theory of Teams, coauthored with Professor Roy Radner of UC, Berkeley. A fifth phase was represented by interest in scientific method as a particular instance of decision making under uncertainty. And there was also a host of significant papers not fitting readily into the above classificatory system, among them works on statistical theory, labor mobility, inventory policy, and economics of atomic energy.
A bibliography of Jacob Marschak for the years of 1923-71 appears in Decision and Organization, a Volume in Honor of Jacob Marschak (edited by C.B. McGuire and R. Radner); a later supplement appears in Volume One of his selected papers that were collected in the three-volume work Economic Information, Decision, and Prediction. Jacob Marschak's pioneering work was honored in many ways over the years. He was president of the Econometric Society in 1947, and vice-president of the American Statistical Association in the same year; he was elected Fellow of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics, Distinguished Fellow of the American Economic Association, Honorary Foreign Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society, Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and member of the National Academy of Sciences. He received honorary degrees from the universities of Bonn (1968), California (1971), Heidelberg (1972), and Northwestern (1977).
Discouraged perhaps by the failure of the ardent hopes of his youth, Jascha Marschak did not remain a political activist. But he retained a warm humanitarian concern for the victims of political repression. In the 1920s he aided a number of his fellow Russian intellectual exiles in finding a way of life in the West. In the 1930s he played a leading role in organizing assistance for refugee scholars from Nazi Germany, and recently he was once again working to assist the newer emigrant intellectuals from Soviet Russia.
Jascha Marschak was unfailingly modest, open-minded, and warm-hearted to all. He was particularly concerned always to encourage the hopes and aspirations of younger colleagues and students. From his fund of tales and reminiscences he always seemed able to select one that put the problems of personal and intellectual life into their proper historical perspectives. Jascha Marschak's memory will live on in the thoughts of the many whose lives were enriched by contact with his beautiful spirit.
He is survived by his wife Marianne and daughter Ann Jernberg, both psychologists, and his son Thomas, who is a Professor of Business Administration at the Berkeley campus of the University of California.
Arthur M. Geoffrion
Michael D. Intriligator