Fourth year History of Science and Technology student Calum Agnew will head to Victoria, BC, at the beginning of June to present his paper, “A Fault in Our Star: Science, Sunspots, and the Economics of W.S. Jevons”, at the next meeting of the Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Science.
Calum has the distinction of being the only King’s undergraduate student ever to be accepted at this meeting and one of the rare few to present on the history of economics.
Calum has devoted much of his fourth year to looking at the work of the world-renowned British economist William Stanley Jevons, one of the founders of modern mathematical economics. His paper, written for HOST 4000, analyses why Jevons thought economic crises are caused by sunspots.
“Levons was a polymath, a trained scientist–he studied chemistry–and he was part of a triumvirate of economists in Europe who mathematized economics,” explains Calum. “He lifted equations for economics right out of physics. He had a tremendous impact on economics and he has been very under appreciated.”
In his final years, Jevon published a series of papers that linked the appearance of sunspots to the markets in England. “This has been called the great blunder of his life,” says Calum, “But his argument that solar weather has an impact on terrestrial weather was not absurd.”
“In part, the originality of Calum’s paper is to show how in the 19th century economists believed a strong knowledge of science was necessary to understand what we now call microeconomics,” says HOST professor Dr Mélanie Frappier.
Toronto-born Calum will graduate from King’s in May with a BAH in HOST and economics.