Kemmerer, Edwin Walter

Kemmerer, Edwin Walter (1875-1945), first Walker Professor of Economics and International Finance, developed an interest in monetary theory during his student days. At Wesleyan University he devoted his senior thesis to a defense of the quantity theory of money, and in his doctoral dissertation at Cornell he devised statistical methods to support his arguments. In 1903, on receiving his Ph.D., he was appointed financial adviser to the United States Philippines Commission. In this capacity he drafted the currency law of the Islands and put them on the gold exchange standard, thus inaugurating a lifetime career as an international ``money doctor.'' Between 1917 and 1934 he served as financial adviser to the governments of Mexico and Guatemala, and headed financial missions to Colombia, South Africa, Chile, Poland, Ecuador, Bolivia, China, Peru, and Turkey. In 1924 he was banking and monetary expert to the Dawes Commission on European reparations.

Kemmerer came to Princeton from Cornell in 1912, joining Frank A. Fetter (q.v.), who had come from Ithaca a year earlier. In 1929 he helped establish the International Finance Section, contributed to its endowment, and became its first director as well as first Walker Professor, serving in these positions until his retirement in 1943.

He wrote more than a dozen books. Perhaps the most important for other economists was his Modern Currency Reforms (1916). Best known was The A B C of the Federal Reserve System (1918), which ran to twelve editions.

Among the honors bestowed on him were the presidency of the American Economic Association; election to the American Philosophical Society and to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; decorations by the governments of Belgium, Colombia, Ecuador, and Poland, and honorary degrees from universities in Bolivia and Ecuador as well as from Columbia, Occidental, Oglethorpe, Rutgers, and Wesleyan. One distinction that especially delighted him was the honorary membership the Princeton Class of 1916 voted him because he and they ``were Freshmen together.''

He left bequests to the three universities with which he had been connected -- Wesleyan, Cornell, and Princeton.


From Alexander Leitch, A Princeton Companion, copyright Princeton University Press (1978).

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