Fischer Black and the Revolutionary Idea of Finance

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Overview

PRAISE FOR FISCHER BLACK AND THE REVOLUTIONARY IDEA OF FINANCE

"Perry Mehrling's fascinating book provides a rich picture of Fischer Black—the man's spirit, his brilliant ideas, the times in which he worked, and the people with whom he collaborated and learned. Mehrling treats Black's personal life with sensitivity and charm. He treats the professional side with rare lucidity that conveys the sense of excitement in Black's intellectual discoveries."
Peter L. Bernstein, economic...

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Fischer Black and the Revolutionary Idea of Finance

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Overview

PRAISE FOR FISCHER BLACK AND THE REVOLUTIONARY IDEA OF FINANCE

"Perry Mehrling's fascinating book provides a rich picture of Fischer Black—the man's spirit, his brilliant ideas, the times in which he worked, and the people with whom he collaborated and learned. Mehrling treats Black's personal life with sensitivity and charm. He treats the professional side with rare lucidity that conveys the sense of excitement in Black's intellectual discoveries."
Peter L. Bernstein, economic consultant to institutional investors, and author of Capital Ideas: The Improbable Origins of Modern Wall Street

"Fischer Black was more than a vital force in the development of finance theory. He was also a character. Perry Mehrling has captured both sides of the picture: the evolution of thinking about the pricing of risk and time, as well as the thinkers, especially this fascinating eccentric, who worked it out."
Robert M. Solow, Nobel Laureate and Institude, Professor of Economics, Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

"Although I worked closely with Fischer for nine years at Goldman Sachs, and clearly recognized both his genius and the breadth and originality of his ideas, until I read this book I had only the vaguest grasp of the source of his inspiration, and no understanding at all of the source of his many idiosyncracies."
Bob Litterman, head of Quantitative Resources, Goldman Sachs Asset Management

"Perry Mehrling's rendition of the evolution of modern finance paints an informative picture of both the subject matter and its principal architects. These innovators are giants, all. Fischer Black, however, stands out among his peers, not only for his seminal contributions, but for the allure of his distinct idiosyncrasies . . . exhibiting the beingness of an extraordinary human; indeed, one I knew well."
Mac McQuown, Principal, Diversified Credit Investments, LLC Director, Dimensional Fund Advisors, and former chairman, KMV Corporation

"Perry Mehrling has done a remarkable job of tracing the intellectual and personal development of one of the most original and complex thinkers of our generation. Fischer Black deserved it: a charming and brilliant book about a charming and brilliant man."
Robert E. Lucas, Jr., Nobel laureate and Professor of Economics, University of Chicago

"I thought I knew Fischer Black well, both personally and intellectually, but missed entire sections of his life and work. Perry Mehrling's book shows the whole man, who was much more remarkable than I realized."
Stewart C. Myers, Billard Professor of Finance, MIT Sloan School of Management

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“…excellent…” (getAbstract.com, 7th November 2005)

“a rigorous but rewarding biography” (CFO Europe, October 2005)

“highly readable” (Benefits & Compensation International, October 2005)

"...well-researched...recommended..." (Accounting Technician, September 2005)

"The story of Fischer Black...is remarkable both because of the creativity of the man and because of the revolution he brought to wall Street.… Mehrling's book is fascinating..." (Financial Times, 12th September 2005)

“…recommended as readable to those with the intellectual curiosity to pursue financial theory…” (The Independent, 30 July 2005)

“… a vignette-based business biography that captures the essence of this extraordinary man…engaging and entertaining…” (Credit Control Journal, July 2005)

In a 30-year career equally divided between academics (University of Chicago) and Wall Street, Black contributed seminal papers in almost every area of finance and many areas of economics, but few were published in major peer-reviewed journals and many were never published at all. He spent most of his time alone in a room thinking and writing, was uncomfortable in large groups, an undistinguished lecturer and famously eccentric in ways more irritating than amusing or dramatic. All of this gives Barnard economist Mehrling (The Money Interest and the Public Interest) his work cut out for him. He has responded with a book that, beyond providing the facts of Black's life, serves as the best currently available general history of the revolution in finance that took place between 1960 and 1990: the essential ideas and disputes are explained clearly, with a minimum of mathematics and jargon, and the relationships among the leading innovators are explored concisely but in depth. As far as Black goes, Mehrling gives a clear picture of his working life and reveals the strong family ties and close personal friendships of a man often thought to have been emotionless. On the whole, Mehrling's book is essential reading for anyone interested in the development of modern finance or the life of an idiosyncratic creative genius. (July) (Publishers Weekly, June 6, 2005)

"A fascinating history of things we take for granted in our everyday financial lives." (The New York Times)

"[Fischer Black and the Revolutionary Idea of Finance] does an exceptional job of capturing Black’s spirit and gives an insightful inside account of the academic financial revolution." (Global Association of Risk Professionals magazine)

"Mehrling skillfully interweaves the stories of Black's career, his sometimes-difficult personal life, and his contributions to finance and to economics . . . In telling the story of Black's life, Mehrling casts light on a crucial, underappreciated aspect of the making of our current world."-Science magazine

"Excellent new biography of Fischer Black, one of the great innovators of modern finance theory. . . Mehrling also provides an engaging history of the development of quantitative finance and a solid introduction to some of its central concepts."--Region Focus, Fall 2005

"By unearthing Black's personal story, Mehrling conjures a unique glimpse into the context in which "the Einstein of finance" viewed liquidity, risk, capital, business cycles -- the world's entire economic equilibrium. Once inside the mind of Black, you may never look at the market the same way again." --Trader Monthly magazine

"Besides being a splendid account of the early and great years of the development of Finance as an academic discipline, and a fascinating biography of an extraordinary but difficult genius, this book made me think and reflect more than almost any other book."--Journal of the History of Economic Thought

"...Wit and insight" ( Financial Management, December 2006)

Publishers Weekly
In a 30-year career equally divided between academics (University of Chicago) and Wall Street, Black contributed seminal papers in almost every area of finance and many areas of economics, but few were published in major peer-reviewed journals and many were never published at all. He spent most of his time alone in a room thinking and writing, was uncomfortable in large groups, an undistinguished lecturer and famously eccentric in ways more irritating than amusing or dramatic. All of this gives Barnard economist Mehrling (The Money Interest and the Public Interest) his work cut out for him. He has responded with a book that, beyond providing the facts of Black's life, serves as the best currently available general history of the revolution in finance that took place between 1960 and 1990: the essential ideas and disputes are explained clearly, with a minimum of mathematics and jargon, and the relationships among the leading innovators are explored concisely but in depth. As far as Black goes, Mehrling gives a clear picture of his working life and reveals the strong family ties and close personal friendships of a man often thought to have been emotionless. On the whole, Mehrling's book is essential reading for anyone interested in the development of modern finance or the life of an idiosyncratic creative genius. (July) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780471457329
  • Publisher: Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 6/28/2005
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 374
  • Sales rank: 1,482,326
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 8.78 (h) x 1.28 (d)

Meet the Author

PERRY MEHRLING is Professor of Economics at Barnard College of Columbia University. He holds a PhD from Harvard University and is the author of The Money Interest and the Public Interest: American Monetary Thought, 1920–1970. Dr. Mehrling's specialty is the study of financial theory and the history of economics.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Foreword xv

Preface xxi

Prologue The Price of Risk 1

ONE Thou Living Ray of Intellectual Fire 23

TWO An Idea in the Rough 49

THREE Some Kind of an Education 73

FOUR Living Up to the Model 99

FIVE Tortuous Economic Intuition 119

SIX The Money Wars 139

SEVEN Global Reach 165

EIGHT Stagflation 189

NINE Changing Fields 215

TEN What Do Traders Do? 231

ELEVEN Exploring General Equilibrium 255

Epilogue Nothing Is Constant 283

Appendix A A Financial Notes Chronology 299

Appendix B A Newsletter Chronology 301

Notes 303

References 327

Index 355

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2005

    Economist's Bio Tells a Larger Story

    Author Perry Mehrling¿s excellent book is not merely a biography of Fischer Black, but also the story of the main threads of economic thought during the late twentieth century. More than that, it is the story of the economics profession, and of the great role that politics and personality plays in the acceptance of ideas. It is astonishing to learn how ruthlessly the profession excluded Black¿s ideas, although he was one of the most incisive economic and financial thinkers of his time, and it is inspiring to see how relentlessly and quixotically Fischer Black continued to press them. The parts of the book that are generally accessible are also fascinating. Unfortunately, far too little of the volume is accessible to the average business reader. Mehrling does a less than adequate job of explaining the great themes of Black¿s life and thought to lay readers. He notes the importance of the Capital Asset Pricing Model in Black¿s philosophy, but his account of the model will leave noneconomists scratching their heads. The same must be said of his account of other economic subjects. While we find that only readers with a fairly deep understanding of economics can reap this book¿s full harvest, that caveat should not deter the general reader from gleaning.

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