Bob Dimand, 2013-14 HOPE Center Fellow

Bob Dimand motions me into his office in the HOPE Center. He wants to show me how his interest in women in economics got started.

He pulls off the shelf volume 1 of the American Economic Association’s Index of Economic Journals, which covers the period 1886 to 1924, and eagerly turns to the first page of the author index.

He points to the second name in the index.

“Edith Abbott,” he says.

“Never heard of her,” I say.

“Neither had I. But look at this.” He runs his finger down the list of her publications. “JPE. JPE. JPE. JPE. JPE. JPE. JPE. JPE. AER. AER. AER. JPE. JPE. JPE.”

“Top journals,” I say.

“And so many publications. When I first browsed through the index all those years ago and came across Edith Abbott’s name, I thought, Who was this person? And more to the point, Why hadn’t I heard of her?”

He turns to several other names, all women, and all with long lists of publications in the best journals.

“It was all serendipity,” Bob says. “When I first opened the index, I didn’t know a research topic was going to announce itself to me. But it did. And that’s how I got interested in women economists."

Bob's interest eventually led to the Biographical Dictionary of Women Economists, which he edited with Mary Ann Dimand and Evelyn Forget.

The biographical dictionary was published in 2000 by Edward Elgar; a paperback edition appeared in 2004.

A 2013-14 Fellow of the HOPE Center, Bob is spending his time at Duke writing books on Irving Fisher and James Tobin. Fisher was a polyglot intellectual whose contributions went way beyond economics. Tobin was one of the great macroeconomists of the last fifty years and a big admirer of Fisher. He was also Bob’s dissertation adviser when Bob was a PhD student at Yale.

As Bob explains, his will be the first book on Fisher’s economics. Bob hopes to present a Fisher who is far more complex than simply the economist who gave us the classic monetary formula MV = PT, which relates the quantity of money and its circulation to the price level and the volume of trade.

In his book on Tobin, which will be an installment in Palgrave Macmillan’s Great Thinkers in Economics series, Bob wants to make it clear that Tobin’s version of Keynesian economics is still worth paying attention to: as Tobin would emphasize, we cannot assume that the monetary system will function smoothly.

A member of the HOPE advisory board, Bob has long been an active member of the history of economics community here at Duke. He’s presented papers at no fewer than five HOPE conferences, most recently, the 2012 conference on the economist as public intellectual.

He says that, like most towns with excellent universities, Durham has some good bookstores. Even the thrift stores are worth combing. He found a volume of Schumpeter at one.

“I’ll go home with more books than I came with,” he says.

Bob says that young scholars searching for research topics should look beyond the big names or the famous publications.

“Keynes wasn’t the only person doing macro in the 1930s,” he points out. “Lots of people were doing macro in the 1930s, people whose names don’t make it into the standard histories, yet they were doing interesting work. There’s mountains of stuff waiting to be found.”

Bob will return to his home institution of Brock University in December.

--Paul Dudenhefer