SYDNEY LETTER to IRVING FISHER, YALE UNIVERSITY, CONNECTICUT
This unpretentious cover with a Sydney/ 10 pm/ 3 SEP/ 1929 POST EARLY EACH DAY roller cancel obliterating two red KGV Head stamps was addressed to Professor Irving Fisher, Yale University (crossed out and ‘97' pencilled in), New Haven, Connecticut. There was an arrival postmark with NEW HAVEN CONN/ OCT 3/ 11 30AM/ YALE STA./ 1929 (Figure 1).
Irving Fisher was born February 27, 1867 at Saugerties, New York and his father George Whitefield Fisher was a teacher and Congregational minister who raised his son to believe that he must be an useful member of society. Irving showed early mathematical ability and a flair for inventing things, and a week after he was admitted to Yale University his father died at age 53. Irving became the provider who supported his mother, younger brother and self, mainly by tutoring. He graduated from Yale in 1888 with a B.A. degree, he was a member of the Yale Skull & Bones Fraternity and was valedictorian of his class.
His best subject was mathematics, but economics better matched his social concerns, and he went on to write a doctoral thesis on mathematical economics and was granted the first Yale Ph. D. in economics in 1891. He did not realise at the outset that there was already a substantial body of European literature on this subject, but his thesis made a contribution which was recognised as first rate by the master of this subject, Francis Edgeworth. In addition he constructed a machine of pumps and levers to complement and illustrate his thesis. Fisher’s subsequent books and articles showed mathematical sophistication, and he presented his theories in a very lucid manner.
At Yale University he held the positions of instructor in mathematics (1890-91), tutor in mathematics (1891-93), assistant professor of mathematics (1893-95), assistant professor of political and social science (1895-98), professor of political economy (1898-1935), and professor emeritus (1935-47). Fisher wrote numerous articles and books in the fields of mathematics, political economics, tuberculosis, diet, dangers of smoking, and public health. He was a member of several professional organizations and societies, served as a presidential advisor, and was an active member of various social causes.
Monetary economics became the main focus of his work and his Appreciation and Interest was an abstract analysis of the behaviour of interest rates when the price level of goods was changing. He was a prolific writer, producing journalism articles as well as his scholarly technical books and articles., and he addressed the problems of the First World War, the League of Nations, the prosperous 1920s and the depressed 1930s.
In addition to being an early American celebrity economist, he was also known as a health campaigner and eugenicist, and his reputation to-day is probably higher than in his lifetime. Several terms are named after him, including the Fisher equation, Fisher hypothesis and the Fisher separation theorem, none of which I will attempt to summarise! His date and place of death has been quoted as New Haven, Connecticut April 19, 1947 and New York City, April 29, 1947. A picture of Irving Fisher is seen in Figure 2.