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Franklin Fisher named inaugural holder of microeconomics chair

Professor Franklin Fisher of the Department of Economics has been named the first holder of the Jane Berkowitz Carlton and Dennis William Carlton Chair in Microeconomics.

Dennis Carlton (SM 1974, PhD 1975) announced the gift for the new chair and other programs at an October economics department conference that celebrated Professor Fisher's 65th birthday and his many contributions to economics.

The Carlton gift will support a tenured full professorship in economics; undergraduate economics education; and an economics or non-economics course in Jewish studies, such as a course on Jewish history, Jewish philosophy or the economics of Middle East peace negotiations.

Dr. Carlton, who was an instructor at MIT for a year after he completed his PhD, is a professor of economics at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business. He is also president of Lexecon, one of the nation's leading economics consulting firms. He is an expert on industrial organization, the subfield of economics that focuses on the interaction between companies and between firms, consumers and governments.

In announcing the new chair, Dr. Carlton noted that his family has many ties to MIT and that he and his wife welcomed the chance to support research and teaching at the Institute. Dennis and Jane (who holds a PhD in organic chemistry from Harvard) were both admitted to MIT as undergraduates, although neither chose to attend. Jane's late father, Melvin Berkowitz, received a bachlor's degree from MIT in 1948. The Carltons' daughter, Debbie, received the SB in economics in 1999. Dennis also served as MIT's expert in the recent antitrust case in which MIT successfully defended itself against the Department of Justice charges that its financial aid policy was illegal. He currently serves on the Visiting Committee of the Department of Economics.

"Having a graduate of one of the world's leading economics departments (who also happens to be a professor at another leading department) establish a chair at his alma mater is amazing in and of itself. But when the first chairholder also happens to be one of the donor's former teachers, it must be a first," said Philip S. Khoury, dean of the School of Humanities and Social Science. "MIT's economics department is very fortunate to have Frank Fisher on its faculty, and to have such close ties to the Carlton family."

Professor Fisher supervised Dennis Carlton's doctoral dissertation and taught Debbie Carlton's first MIT economics course. He is a leading economic theorist and an expert in the field of industrial organization. He joined the MIT faculty in 1961 after receiving the BA (1956) and PhD (1960) from Harvard University.

Professor Fisher has served as the President of the Econometric Society, and he is also a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is a past editor of Econometrica, the leading journal of econometrics and economic theory. He has written more than a dozen books and more than a hundred scholarly articles on industrial organization, econometrics and economic theory. He has also played a very significant role in applying economic theory to practical issues in industrial organization.

Fisher also served as IBM's principal economic witness when the US government charged IBM with antitrust violations. More recently, he has been the Justice Department's lead economics expert in the US v. Microsoft antitrust trial.

Fisher is well suited to hold the Carlton chair since he is also actively involved in public policy in the Middle East. He chairs the Harvard Middle East Water Project, a joint effort by Israelis, Jordanians and Palestinians that seeks solutions to water resource allocation problems in the Middle East. He served on the Board of Governors of Tel Aviv University from 1976-92 and is current president of the New Israel Fund.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on January 12, 2000.

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