Yale Bulletin and Calendar

June 23, 2000Volume 28, Number 34

William N. Parker

Long-time professor William N. Parker,
a scholar of U.S. and European economic history, dies

William N. Parker, the Phillip G. Bartlett Professor Emeritus of Economics and professor emeritus of American Studies at Yale, died on April 29. A memorial service was held at Battell Chapel on May 5.

During his long career as a scholar, writer and teacher of economic history, Professor Parker served as president of both the Economic History Association and the Agricultural History Association. His many awards and honors include election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1986 and the Economic History Association's Jonathan Hughes Prize for Excellence in Teaching in 1995. He retired from Yale in 1989, but remained active in his field.

Professor Parker's work in economic history spans the emergence and development of modern capitalist institutions in Europe and the United States. He wrote about agrarian transformation, changes in the technology and organization of manufacturing, the geographical extension of markets and patterns of regional development.

Among the first in his field to make systematic use of quantitative data and statistical methods, Professor Parker compiled and analyzed data from 19th-century census manuscripts into a landmark study of inter-regional trade. As editor of the Journal of Economic History in the 1960s, he presided over the flowering of quantitative research in economic history. He also emphasized the importance of the social, political and cultural context of economic research.

When a group of his former students published a festschrift in his honor in 1984 ("Technique, Spirit and Form in the Making of the Modern Economies," edited by Gary Saxonhouse and Gavin Wright), they noted, "No other economic historian has so many admirers and well-wishers."

"Bill's grasp of the particular, rather than his quest for the general, made him not only a great historian, but also a storyteller, a writer, a poet and an astute observer of people," said President Richard C. Levin at the memorial service. "It is well known that Bill was the most productive of mentors. His students occupy chairs in economic history at Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley and Northwestern. But his influence as a teacher and counselor extends far beyond economic history. In his 13 years as director of graduate studies in economics at Yale, he touched hundreds of lives, exuding warmth and extending kindness to every student while privately relishing their idiosyncrasies."

"He was a beloved teacher, respected and loved by students and colleagues," said Merton Peck, the Thomas Dewitt Cuyler Professor of Economics at Yale. "He was noted for his kindness, and also for the breadth and depth of his learning."

Mr. Parker was born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1919. He earned his bachelor's degree in 1939 from Harvard College with a major in English. A National Scholar, he graduated magna cum laude and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He then began graduate studies in economics at Harvard, earning a master's degree in 1941.

World War II interrupted his studies. He left for Washington in the summer of 1941 to serve in the mobilization effort with the Office of Production Management. He then served in the U.S. Army Ordnance Corps from 1941 to 1943. From 1943 to 1945, he was an economic analyst in the Office of Strategic Services in Europe, rising to the rank of major. He and his college classmate, Richard Ruggles, were responsible for estimating the German production of tanks and trucks based on an analysis of the serial numbers of captured German equipment. (Years later, both he and Ruggles came to Yale, where they taught in the same department for 27 years.)

When the war ended, Professor Parker worked as an economist for the U.S. Senate Committee on Atomic Energy, and then as an economist in the State Department's Division of Research for Europe. After two years of research in France and Germany, he was awarded a Ph.D. in 1951 from Harvard. He taught at Williams College and the University of North Carolina before joining the Yale faculty in 1963.

Professor Parker is survived by his wife, Yvonne; a son, Jarrett; a daughter, Victoria; and several grandchildren.

Yale and the Parker family have established the William N. Parker Scholarship Fund for a graduate student in economics. Contributions can be sent to the William N. Parker Scholarship Fund, c/o Office of the President, Yale University, P.O. Box 208229, New Haven, CT, 06520.


Janet Yellen joins Yale Corporation as the newest alumni fellow

Center for the study of frontier experience honors Howard Lamar

Editor Claude-Anne Lopez describes her 'life with Benjamin Franklin'

Pediatrician invents shampoo to light up head lice in children

Reunions bring record numbers to campus

Yale SOM taking to the high seas to offer educational seminars for executives

School of Music awards first Simeone scholarship

Rubenfeld named to Law School's Slaughter chair

Events to celebrate the arrival of 'Amistad' ship



SOM Dean Jeffrey Garten assembles panel to explore 'new economy'

Study proposes tax on snack foods to fight obesity

Employees honored at awards dinner for their many years of service to Yale

Holmes is inducted into American Philosophical Society

Ian Shapiro selected as a Carnegie Scholar . . .

Comer lauded as leader in American education

DeVita honored for his research on lymphoma

Yale Athletics joins in venture to lure sports fans

Summer Cabaret season celebrates Yale playwrights

Yale Repertory Theatre marks milestones during its fall season

Diana D. Brooks resigns her post as Yale trustee

David Bromwich earns prestigious award for his literary works

Campus Notes

In the News

Bulletin Home|Visiting on Campus| Calendar of Events|Bulletin Board

Classified Ads|Search Archives|Production Schedule|Bulletin Staff

Public Affairs Home|News Releases| E-Mail Us|Yale Home Page