Ludwig von Mises mentions a great number of people in his masterpiece, Human Action. The following list of names is arranged in chronological order. A brief account of each person's life is also presented, along with an indication of how and why von Mises included this name in his book. For an alphabetical listing of these names, please use the index. This list of names has been divided into five pieces for faster downloads. Access the preceding piece here.

Ernst Cassirer (1874 - 1945): Silesian neo-Kantian philosopher. Educated at Berlin, Leipzig, Heidelberg, and Marburg, he was appointed professor of philosophy at Hamburg University in 1919. Cassirer was Jewish and, when Hitler came to power, he resigned his post and emigrated -- first to England, then to Sweden, and finally (1941) to the United States, where he taught at Yale and at Columbia. His major philosophical work (Philosophie der symbolischen formen, in 3 volumes, 1923-29; English translation The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, 1953-57) analyzed the common pre-logical processes underlying the formation of mental symbols in every known example of human culture. His Kantian orientation is also evident in Substanzbegriff und Funktionsbegriff (1910; English translation Substance and Function, 1923) in which he argued that the concept must exist within a human mind before the process of classifying particular perceptions can even begin. Mises openly displays his own Kantian, or neo-Kantian, sympathies by describing Cassirer's work as "brilliant."

Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955): German physicist and philosopher. Einstein was, without question, the greatest theoretical physicist of the 20th century. A poor student, he eventually (1905) received a doctorate from the University at Zurich, and in that same year startled the world with his special theory of relativity, which satisfactorily explained the apparently anomalous result of the famous Michelson-Morley experiment of 1881. His corpuscular theory of light and his explanation of Brownian motion were also published in 1905. Einstein soon took a position as a professor of physics, first at Prague, then in Zurich, and finally (1914) in Berlin. His general theory of relativity, deduced from the principle that an observer in an accelerated frame of reference will see objects fall to the floor just as if they were subject to a Newtonian force of gravity, was published in 1916. Einstein's theory received experimental verification just three years later, when Sir Arthur Eddington led an expedition to Principe Island (off the coast of West Africa) and measured, during a total solar eclipse, an apparent shift in the position of some distant stars -- a shift caused by the sun's gravity -- that was predicted more precisely by general relativity than by Newton's theory. Physicists and cosmologists today are still grappling with the ramifications of this extraordinarily fertile and well-validated physical theory.

In 1921 Einstein received the Nobel prize in physics -- for his work on electrodynamics, and not for his theories of relativity. He was unhappy with the quantum theory then being developed by Bohr, Dirac, Schrödinger, and Heisenberg -- one of his famous statements about quantum mechanics is "God does not play dice with the universe." As the Weimar Republic fell apart around him, Einstein publicly opposed nationalism and national socialism, promoted pacifist ideals, and supported the burgeoning Zionist movement. When Hitler rose to power in 1933, Einstein renounced his German citizenship and emigrated to the United States for a chair at the Institute of Advanced Studies, Princeton. There he spent the remainder of his life working on his "unified field theory" (supposed to replace QM, but not yet brought to a successful conclusion by anybody), and supporting the ideals of peace, good will, and equal opportunity that had always been his guiding star.

A prolific author, Einstein also carried on an extensive correspondence with friends and admirers all around the world. He offered opinions on many subjects. Unlike most scientists of his generation, Einstein was neither a positivist nor an atheist. He publicly declared his belief in "Spinoza's God who reveals Himself in the harmony of what exists." As a senior statesman of physics he eventually gained renown as a philosopher of science, and it is in connection with Einstein's opinion of Kantianism that Mises quotes him:

How can mathematics, a product of human reason that does not depend on any experience, so exquisitely fit the objects of reality? Is human reason able to discover, unaided by experience, through pure reasoning, the features of real things? ... As far as the theorems of mathematics refer to reality they are not certain, and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.

Josef Stalin (1879 - 1953): Georgian revolutionary, Bolshevik, failed student of theology, and dictator of the USSR from 1929 until his death. Born Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, he adopted the name Koba ("The Indomitable") about 1905, and Stalin ("The Man of Steel") about 1913. Frequently exiled during the tumultuous years from 1905 - 1917, he joined Lenin in opposing the Mensheviks and gained a position of prominence within the Communist party. A master of intrigue, his career as dictator was marked by brutality and murder. Mises mentions his name in connection with Marxism and the failure of the Russian socialist experiment. To read more about him, click here.

Leon Trotsky (1879 - 1940): Ukrainian revolutionary journalist, and one of the original organizers of the Communist party in Russia. Born Lev Davidovich Bronstein, he was a revolutionary Marxist who got in trouble with the Tsar before his 19th birthday and was exiled from Russia several times before the 1917 revolution. He was close to Lenin and the Bolsheviks, and after Lenin's death he opposed Stalin's autocratic regime. He was expelled from Russia in 1929, sentenced to death (in absentia) in 1937, and assassinated in 1940. Mises mentions his name to exemplify the ruthless infighting that dominated Communist politics. Here's a link to additional information about Trotsky.

Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington (1882 - 1944): English astronomer, physicist, and mathematician. Educated at Owens College and at Cambridge, he was appointed professor of astronomy at Cambridge in 1913. A year later he advanced the thesis, today a commonplace, that the fuzzy spiral nebulae observed with telescopes are in fact galaxies, like our own Milky Way. Born into a Quaker family, Eddington publicly identified himself as a pacifist during World War I. In 1919 he led an astronomical expedition whose measurements validated a prediction of Einstein's general theory of relativity, and in 1923 released a treatise, The Mathematical Theory of Relativity, which Einstein himself praised as the finest presentation of general relativity in any language. During the 1920s and '30s Eddington wrote several popular accounts of relativity, and of cosmological theories based upon it; he did a great deal to familiarize the general public with Einstein's theories. He also wrote extensively on the epistemological basis of science, and it is in this connection -- particularly, that some physical quantities, just like subjective human values, cannot in principle be measured -- that Mises mentions his name.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882 - 1945): American politician, 32nd president of the United States, and the only man ever to serve more than two terms as president. Educated in law, Roosevelt won his first election, as a New York state senator, in 1910. He served as assistant secretary of the Navy under Woodrow Wilson during World War I. He was paralyzed by poliomyelitis in 1921, but by 1928 had recovered far enough to win election as governor of New York (although he suffered from partial paralysis for the rest of his life). He defeated Herbert Hoover in the presidential election of 1932, and was subsequently re-elected on three occasions ('36, '40, and '44). He died in 1945, leaving Harry Truman to bring World War II to its conclusion.

Rossevelt is both the most popular and the most deeply hated president in American history. His "New Deal" wrought tremendous changes in the structure and function of the federal government, and in the generally accepted interpretation of the U.S. constitution; and his plan for dividing the continent with an "Iron Curtain" -- by an agreement reached with Winston Churchill and Josef Stalin in the conference at Yalta in 1944 -- produced far reaching and mostly negative effects in the subsequent history of Europe. Mises mentions his name merely in passing, using the presidential election of 1944 (vs. Dewey) as a concrete example of case probability (as opposed to class probability).

Moritz Schlick (1882 - 1936): German logician and epistemologist / philosopher. He studied physics, writing a thesis on the nature of truth in the empirical sciences. In 1922 he was appointed professor of the philosophy of empirical science at the University of Vienna. The Vienna Circle of logical positivists soon formed around him. He was editor of the journal Erkenntnis ("Knowledge"), and was philosophically aligned with Wittgenstein and other proponents of linguistic analysis. He met an untimely end, shot to death by a student whose thesis he had rejected. Mises does not mention him directly, but speaks at length of the errors of positivism, which denies the reality of the a priori knowledge on which true economic science is based.

Adolf Hitler (1889 - 1945): German dictator. Born Adolf Schicklgrüber. His father planned to educate him for the civil service, but Adolf aspired to be an artist. By 1904 he was a beggar in Vienna, and had acquired a permanent hatred of intellectuals and "gentlemen with diplomas." In 1913 he moved to Munich, and later volunteered for military service. He was wounded and gassed during World War I. He joined the "National Socialist German Workers' Party" as its seventh member in 1920, and in 1923 engineered a coup in Bavaria, which was brutally put down. Imprisoned for nine months, he used the time to write Mein Kampf. After his release from prison Hitler continued to build his political party, and in 1932 he challenged Hindenburg in the presidential elections. Although unsuccessful, he gained enough votes that the victors brought him into their government as chancellor in 1933. That was a terrible mistake -- within two months he had engineered the burning of the Reichstag, and arranged for special elections at which the Nazi party gained a bare majority.

In 1934 he ordered the murder of hundreds of his own opponents within the Nazi party, and when Hindenburg died in August of that year, Hitler was left the undisputed master of Germany. There is no need to detail here the subsequent events that marked his villainous and treacherous career, other than to say that his military aggressions against Poland and Austria sparked World War II; that he was a racist of the very worst kind whose proposed "Final Solution" of the "Jewish problem" led directly to the murder of at least six million innocent and unarmed people; and that he undoubtedly died in his bunker at Berlin on April 30, 1945. Winston Churchill described him aptly, as "a blood-thirsty guttersnipe." Mises identifies Hitler's ideology as a form of racial polylogism, speaks briefly of his crimes, and identifies him as the author of the "economic miracle" in Sweden between 1932 and 1939, when Germany's rearmament activity drove her neighbor's exports of iron through the roof.

Friedrich A. von Hayek (1899 - 1992): Austrian economist; joint recipient with Gunnar Myrdal of the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1974. His professorial career took him from Vienna to London (1931) and eventually to the United States (1950). A student of von Mises, his work illuminates the difficult problems inherent in every system of economic controls. His Nobel prize was awarded specifically for his contributions to the Austrian theory of the business cycle. Mises makes extensive references to Hayek's work on the theory of money, credit, and interest; on the business cycle; and on the problem of economic calculation in a socialist or welfare state system.

Thomas Edmund Dewey (1902 - 71): American politician. Born in Michigan, Dewey got his law degree at Columbia and was elected DA for New York county in 1937, then governor of New York, from 1942 - '54. He was the (unsuccessful) Republican nominee for U.S. president in 1944 and again in 1948, and his fame rests on a photograph of the beaming, victorious Harry Truman holding a newspaper aloft -- the headline reads "DEWEY BEATS TRUMAN" -- the morning after the election. Mises mentions him merely in passing, using the presidential election of 1944 (vs. Roosevelt as a concrete example of case probability (as opposed to class probability).

John von Neumann (1903 - 1957): Hungarian mathematician and theoretical physicist known for his extraordinary mental quickness. Born in Budapest, he escaped from the Bolsheviks in 1919 and studied chemistry in Switzerland and later Germany. There he met the American physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer; he emigrated to the United States and in 1931 was appointed to a professorship at Princeton University. He worked on the Manhattan project at Los Alamos, where he made important contributions not only to the theory of nuclear fission, but also to the design and implementation of computing hardware. Mises refers to his seminal book on game theory written in collaboration with Oscar Morgenstern: Theory of Games and Economic Behavior (1944). In Mises' view, von Neumann's thesis in this book is fundamentally incorrect because man's economic behavior is not a game. In a game, there are winners and losers; but in a free market economy, every participant gains things he could not possibly have if the market did not exist.