The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Gray, Alexander (1882–1968)

  • T. Johnston
Reference work entry


Gray was a civil servant (1905–21), professor of political economy (Aberdeen University, 1921–35; University of Edinburgh, 1935–56) and, throughout his career, a public servant, poet and translator. Gray combined an early training in mathematics with Scottish pragmatism and an international outlook developed as a graduate student at Göttingen and Paris. He was not interested in esoteric economic theory, but in applications, in public policy and in the historical development of ideas. His early writings (1923, 1927) drew on his civil service experience in establishing the welfare state. Later, in his lectures, he became a leading analyst of the growth of the nationalized industries in Britain. His writings in the history of economic thought (1931, 1946) were remarkable for their range, dissecting ideas from Ancient Greece to modern times and showing a profound knowledge of the literature in many languages. He did not espouse any particular thesis about the development of ideas, but was temperamentally critical of socialism and of the growth of state intervention. He was an inspiring teacher, setting economics in context, historically and politically. Outside economics his translations into broad Scots of European ballads and of Heine were sensitive and much admired.

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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • T. Johnston
    • 1
  1. 1.