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Richard Theodore ELY


Richard Theodore ELY, economist. Founder and President, American Economic Association, 1900-1902; Founder, Institute, Institution Research Land Economics and Public Utility Economics, 1920.


ELY, Richard Theodore was born in 1854 in Ripley, New York, United States of America.


He received a Bachelor's degree of Columbia University in 1876 and a Master's degree in 1879. He received a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Heidelberg in that same year. He later received a Doctorate of Laws from Hobart College, receiving the degree in 1892.


His advocacy of reform movements and in particular his account of labour organisations caused him to be embroiled in controversy over strikes and the issue of socialism. The University of Wisconsin ‘trial’ in 1894 exonerated him and resulted in a classic statement in favour of academic freedom. The school he founded at Wisconsin provided a link between German historical economics and institutionalism, and became famous because of its collaboration with the progressive state government of Wisconsin.

Property and Contract.. was his main published contribution, but was only part of a massive output of articles and editorial work. His teaching and founding work for the American Economic Association made him one of the most influential economists of his time. Lector Economics, Johns Hopkins University, 1881-1892.

Professor, University Wisconsin, 1892-1922.


  • Ely is honored together with William Dwight Porter Bliss with a feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church (United States of America) on October 8.

    The American Economic Association instituted the annual "Richard T. Ely Lecture" in 1960 in his memory, which, unlike the Association's other honors is also open to non-American economists.

    His former home, now known as the Richard T. Ely House, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.



Ely was in fact opposed to socialism. Ely's critique of socialism made him a political target of the socialists themselves. In his 1910 book, Ten Blind Leaders of the Blind, Arthur Morrow Lewis acknowledged that Ely was a "fair opponent" who had "done much to obtain a hearing for [socialism] among the unreasonable," but charged he was merely one of those "bourgeois intellectuals" who were "not sufficiently intellectual to grasp the nature of our position."