On Edwin Bidwell Wilson's Erroneous Assessment of J M Keynes's Mathematical Capabilities: Clearly, Keynes Was a Very Good Mathematician
22 Pages Posted: 20 Nov 2017
Date Written: November 17, 2017
A careful examination of Wilson’s 1948 claim that it was clear that Keynes was not a good mathematician immediately crumbles into dust once Wilson’s own recommended reviews of the A Treatise on Probability are examined, as well as the then unpublished Edgeworth – Wilson exchanges where Wilson admitted to Edgeworth that he had skipped Part II of the A Treatise on Probability in his 1923 review because he could not follow Keynes’s mathematical analysis.
Equally important is Wilson’s disguised, secret, concealed, camouflaged, second review of the A Treatise on Probability that he published in a 1934 issue of the Journal of the American Statistical Society, titled “Boole’s Challenge Problem”. In fact, the paper had nothing to do with Boole at all. Wilson was, in fact, well aware that Keynes was a very good mathematician, who had the aid and support of William Ernest Johnson, a mathematician who was superior to Wilson. Wilson was extremely jealous and envious of Keynes’s fame. Due to this envy, he decided to try to misrepresent what Keynes had done in the A Treatise on Probability. This is best illustrated by his failure to mention his 1934 JASA article, where he had to grudgingly admit that Keynes’s (and Boole’s) analysis were correct, in his 1948 Quarterly Journal of Economics article. It had taken Wilson 11 years to figure out what Keynes had done in his A Treatise on Probability in Part II. Wilson’s claim, that solving Boolean problems from chapters 16-21 of Boole’s 1854 The Laws of Thought were easy and straightforward, directly contradicted his private, personal exchanges with Edgeworth, where he a stated that he could not follow Keynes’s exposition.
The only conclusion possible is that either Wilson was deceptive with Edgeworth in 1923 or he was deceptive with his readers in his 1934 JASA article.
Keywords: Keynes mathematics probability, Wilson
JEL Classification: B10, B12, B14, B16, B20, B22
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation