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An engineer’s view of economics: Wilhelm Launhardt’s contributions

Ursula Backhaus (ISSF Foundation, Maastricht, The Netherlands)

Journal of Economic Studies

ISSN: 0144-3585

Article publication date: 1 August 2000


Wilhelm Launhardt (1832‐1918) is a founder of mathematical economics. His main work, Mathematical Foundations of Economics, published in 1885, was translated into English in 1993. As an engineer, he contributed to the field of not only engineering, but also of economics and, in particular, to those parts in economics which can be treated fruitfully with mathematics. Launhardt developed his work independently from the French engineers, but based it squarely on the work of the agricultural engineer von Thünen. He made references to the economists Sax, Walras and Jevons. His main economic contribution lies in founding location theory but, beyond that, he contributed to the mathematical treatment of economics, labor economics, monetary economics and technology economics with a special emphasis on railway issues from a locational point of view. Hence, it is the purpose of this paper to show how Launhardt used mathematics in his engineering‐based approach to the economics of location and technology.



Backhaus, U. (2000), "An engineer’s view of economics: Wilhelm Launhardt’s contributions", Journal of Economic Studies, Vol. 27 No. 4/5, pp. 424-476.




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