Daniel Bernoulli (1700 - 1782): Swiss mathematician and theoretical physicist. Born into an extensive and influential family of gifted mathematicians, Daniel became a professor of mathematics at St. Petersburg in 1723, and soon helped persuade Leonhard Euler to move to Russia. Bernoulli returned to Basel in 1733, and published a seminal treatise on fluid dynamics in 1738. Bernoulli's Theorem, first expressed in that treatise, expresses the law of conservation of energy for laminar flows in ideal fluids. Better known as the Venturi effect, that theorem explains the phenomenon of lift generated by air flowing over an airplane's wings, and serves as the theoretical basis for shaping the throat of a carburetor in a gasoline engine. Mises refers to one of Bernoulli's conjectures about economics known as de mensura sortis, which is closely related to the psycho-physical Weber-Fechner law.
Benjamin Franklin (1706 - 1790): American statesman and scientist, famous for his experiments in electricity and his ambassadorship to France during the Revolutionary War. He was instrumental in establishing the constitution, and insisted on several provisions (hard money, patent and post offices, etc.) that served the new government well. Mises quotes from Franklin's Autobiography to illustrate the difference between ratiocination and rationalization.
David Hume (1711 - 1776): Scottish philosopher, lawyer, and historian. Hume's formal education was unhappy and incomplete. He published his first philosophical book, the Treatise of Human Nature, in 1739. That book, now acknowledged as a masterpiece, was a commercial failure. Hume simplified his philosophy in subsequent books, most of which sold very well. Briefly, Hume was a skeptic. He questioned the validity of inductive logic. He even declared that his own self, or ego, did not exist, because there is no specific empirical evidence for it. Widely regarded today as a great empiricist and as a forerunner of Comte's positivism, he won fame as an economist with Political Discourses, published in 1852. Mises mentions him as one of the classical British economists and discusses his (incorrect) theory of the neutrality of money, but has little to say about Hume's philosophy, except for passing references to the problem of incomplete induction.
Jacques Claude Marie Vincent, Marquis de Gournay (1712 -1759): French merchant and economist. Contemporary of Quesnay and Turgot. Though counted as one of the Physiocrats he did not entirely accept their theories; he stressed industry and trade over agriculture. He is generally recognized as the originator of the phrase laissez faire, laissez passer. In 1754 Gournay published a French translation of Josiah Child's New Discourse of Trade under the interesting title Traités sur le commerce et sur les avantages qui résultent de la reduction de l'intéręt de l'argent par Josias Child. Mises does not mention Gournay directly, but does speak of the Physiocrats as founders of economic science.
Adam Smith (1723 - 1790): Scottish moral philosopher and economist. Served as a professor of Logic, and later of Moral Philosophy, at Glasgow University. Widely regarded as the founder of the science of economics, although careful scholarship reveals that most of the ideas in The Wealth of Nations, published in 1776, were not original with him. Mises refers to him as one of the archetypical classical economists. Today Smith has more than one web site -- click here to view a good one.
Immanuel Kant (1724 - 1804): German philosopher and ethicist. Born and educated in Königsberg, he spent his entire life there, teaching at the university, and writing books. At first a rationalist in the Cartesian tradition, he was "awakened from his dogmatic slumber" when he read David Hume's Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. In 1781 he released Kritik der reinen Vernunft (Critique of Pure Reason) which, in his own estimation, effected a "Copernican revolution" in epistemology. This very difficult book is universally acknowledged as one of the most influential philosophical treatises in the history of the world. Briefly, Kant declared that the noumenal world (that is, the thing-in-itself) is essentially unknowable; that the phenomenal world (our sensory impression of things outside ourselves) is the only evidence of reality the human mind can apprehend; that to think about the world is to arrange those chaotic sensory impressions into some sort of order; and that it makes more sense to consider the a priori structure of the mind itself, and how that structure influences the organization of sensory impressions, than to assume that all human knowledge arises only a posteriori, in some Baconian or Lockean sense. In other words, John Locke (and David Hume) were wrong when they said the mind is a tabula rasa on which experience writes its lessons -- the mind is not a passive object, but an active organizing principle that wrests order from the chaotic jumble of perception automatically, via an inherent mental structure that is innate in every human being.
Kant was not only an epistemologist. He also wrote extensively on the problems of ethics, and of aesthetics. His version of idealism has exerted a tremendous influence on every philosophical system advanced since 1781. In particular, Hegel, Fichte, and Schelling, Kant's immediate intellectual heirs, were directly influenced by his ideas. Mises, who devotes an entire chapter to the epistemological basis of economic theory, is obviously a Kantian, or at least a neo-Kantian. He uses Kant's terminology -- categories, concepts, the a priori -- freely. He grounds the entire edifice of praxeology in the category of human action. Oddly, though, he rarely mentions Kant by name. The one occurence of Kant's name in Human Action that I've found occurs in a passage about Lucien Lévy-Bruhl and the allegedly fundamental differences between the "primitive" human mind and the "developed" sensibilities of Europeans, where Mises mentions Kant as someone whose neighbors might have spent their time discussing mundane topics like food, and the weather.
Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot (1727 - 1781): French lawyer and economist. One of the Physiocrats, Turgot's early career as a lawyer finally led him into public affairs. As intendant of Limoges he made many improvements in the civil administration. On the ascension of Louis XVI he secured the post of comptroller-general of finance for all of France. He instituted free domestic trade in grain and abolished some corporate monopolies before the vested interests secured his removal from office. His major work, Reflexions sur la formation et la distribution des richesses (1766), largely anticipated the work of Adam Smith. Mises doesn't mention his name directly, but does acknowledge the Physiocrats, and the classical British economists, as the founders of economic science.
Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier (1743 - 1794): French scientist widely regarded as the father of modern chemistry. Lavoisier spent much of his life in government service, as a tax collector ("farmer general of taxes," from 1768), as director of the French gunpowder mills, and as a member of the commission on weights and measures whose report ultimately led to the adoption of the metric system. His Traité élémentaire de chimie (1789 -- Elements of Chemistry) was a seminal work that laid the foundations for a systematic explanation of simple oxidation/reduction reactions. Lavoisier's career was cut short by the Reign of Terror; he was guillotined for his "crimes" as a tax collector. Mises mentions him, along with Galileo and Copernicus, as an innovator -- an original thinker whose ideas sounded "crazy" when they were first advanced, but which later came to be accepted as the conventional wisdom.
Jeremy Bentham (1748 - 1832): English eccentric, prolific author, and social reformer, generally regarded as the founder of utilitarianism. He was independently wealthy because of a bequest from his father, and he spent most of his life writing about science and government. In accordance with the terms of his will, his skeleton is preserved in a cabinet at University College, London. Efforts to preserve his head intact were unsuccessful, and today his skeleton is topped by an artificial head made of wax. His real head was long displayed on the floor of the cabinet, between his feet, but was retired to a vault after some of the undergraduates were (allegedly) apprehended using it in a game of soccer! Mises held Bentham's philosophy of utilitarianism in high esteem. Click here to learn more about the iconoclastic Bentham.
Physiocrats: A school of French economists who flourished about 1750 - 1776. They coined the famous phrase laissez faire, laissez passer, reflecting their basic belief that natural law should guide the economy. Although opposing the mercantilist theories which had prevailed in Europe up until their time and favoring some free trade and somewhat lower taxes, the Physiocrats were in favor of restricting foreign competition with French agriculture. They also generally held that agriculture, and mining, are the only "productive" forms of economic activity. Quesnay and Turgot were among the members of the Physiocratic School.
William Godwin (1756 - 1836): English political writer, anarchist, and novelist. Ordained as a Presbyterian minister in 1778, he served five years as a cleric before turning to literary pursuits and atheism. His political theory was enunciated in an Enquiry concerning Political Justice (1793). Inspired by the events of the French revolution, it advocated anarchy, radical educational reforms, sexual licentiousness, and a peculiar form of socialism. In 1797 he married Mary Wollstonecraft, who was a noted radical and social reformer in her own right -- their daughter, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, was later (1816) to marry the renowned romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, who with his friend Lord Byron and Mary's half-sister 'Claire' Clairmont put Godwin's theory of free love into practice. (Mary Godwin / Shelley is famous herself -- as the author of Frankenstein.) Mises implies that Godwin's totally impractical socialistic ideas exemplify the insanity of all socialist authors.
Thomas Robert Malthus (1766 - 1834): English demographer and political economist. Educated at Cambridge, his first major work, An Essay on the Principle of Population, was published in 1798. His basic argument, that population will tend to grow faster than the means of subsistence, has been abused and misinterpreted by both his friends and enemies. In a second major work, Principles of Political Economy Considered with a View to their Practical Application (1820), he anticipated many aspects of J. M. Keynes' theories about private saving and "public investment." Mises mentions Malthus several times, usually referring to his principle of population growth, and the need for "moral restraint" in a civilized society.
Ludwig von Beethoven (1770 - 1827): German musician and composer. Generally recognized as the originator of "romantic" music; arguably the greatest composer in human history. Lost his hearing about 1802, but continued to compose beautiful music in spite of this handicap. Mises mentions him both as an example of spontaneous genius that arose from poverty, and as a study in self determination.
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770 - 1831): German author, teacher, and philosopher. Following Immanuel Kant as a German idealist, Hegel took a more mystical turn with his philosophy of dialectic -- a struggle between the finite spirit of man and the infinite spirit of God -- and of God as the Absolute Idea. Hegel's ideas were subsequently twisted almost beyond recognition by elements of both the political right (Prussian conservatives) and left (socialists and communists). Mises refers to Hegel's concept of Geist and expounds at length on the influence Hegelianism exerted on Karl Marx. Click here to read more about Hegel.
Charles Fourier (1772 - 1837): French socialist (not to be confused with his contemporary, Jean Baptiste Joseph, Baron de Fourier, an eminent physicist and mathematician). Disenchanted with his career as a businessman and believing that capitalism and civilization are evil, Charles produced a new social theory calling for the establishment of agricultural communes he called phalanges. In Fourier's system, marriage would be abolished and men would continually rotate from one craft or profession to another, leading to universal harmony as the "free" and "healthy" development of human talents and emotions was encouraged, and not repressed. Mises mentions Fourier as one whose theories influenced Karl Marx, and as an author whose crazy ideas exemplify the insanity of all socialistic theories.
David Ricardo (1772 - 1823): English businessman, economist, and politician. Ricardo's system, as explained in Principles of Political Economy and Taxation, is generally regarded as the summum bonum of classical economics. Mises gives particular attention to Ricardo's law of association and the closely related law of returns. Because he was unaware of the subjective theory of value, Ricardo advanced a labor theory of value, which led him into antinomies like the iron law of wages.