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Harvard. Economics Ph.D. Alumnus (1922), William Arthur Berridge in mid-career 1939




Today’s posting provides some biographical detail (through age 46) of  William Arthur Berridge (b. 13 April 1893; d. 25 Sept 1973). Harvard Class of 1914, Phi Beta Kappa and 1922 economics Ph.D. that comes from his personal report to the Class of 1914’s twenty-fifth reunion volume. Besides being on the lookout for the artifacts of economics education in the form of course descriptions, notes, reading lists and examination questions, Economics in the Rear View Mirror is interested in the life and career stories of economics Ph.D.’s. Contributions from the community of visitors are very much welcome. Well-told personal anecdotes of time in the trenches as a graduate student would greatly add to this growing collection of material.


[1939 report]


Born: Lynn, Mass., Apr. 13, 1893. (Bill). Parents: Frank Berridge, Sadie May Brown.
Prepared at: Classical High School, Lynn, Mass.
Years in College: 1910-1914. Degrees: A.B. magna cum laude, 1914; A.M., 1919; Ph.D., 1922.
Married: Ruth Reid, Cambridge, Mass., Jan. 24, 1918. Children: Katherine Beatrice, May 31, 1919; Ruth Margaret, Mar. 4, 1921.
Occupation: Economist, Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., 1 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y.
Address: 52 Gramercy park North, New York, N. Y.


Perhaps the World War which broke out before we had recovered from Commencement did not affect me more than my average classmate. But perhaps it affected me differently from most. One influence that it had was to switch me from physical to social sciences. The route was circuitous, however. My aspirations were, one after another, to enter (1) engineering, (2) physics, (3) mathematics, (4) ministry, (5) social administration or social ethics, (6) statistics, and finally (7) economics. They even overlapped; for, during the two years when I was studying in numbers (4)-(5), the beloved Bôcher got me appointed an instructor in no. (3) over at the College.

The longer I live, the less do I regret all that “batting around.” I find it has enriched my working and living. Even the two years in uniform benefited me and my work in several ways, some of which I did not properly evaluate until years afterward.

In 1919, on nothing at all, we went back to Cambridge, to learn how better to help the world understand, if not solve, the expected war aftermath of economic problems. While studying for a Ph.D., I enjoyed earning a living as a research assistant for Bullock’s and Persons’ Committee on Economic Research, and as an instructor and tutor—this time, for a change, in the same field I was studying—aided by two or three windfalls from writing.

After completing in 1922 my thesis on unemployment, I spent five pleasant years in Providence as assistant (later associate) professor of Economics at Brown, but in 1924 I began devoting half-time to the Metropolitan Life in New York as consulting economist. In 1927 I left Brown to become full-time (and over-time!) economist for that company. It is a voluminous but varied and intensely interesting assignment on the research end, and in addition it is in a very real sense teaching as well. I love the work, and the social-minded institution for which I do it.

Elsewhere in the company, such varied and distinguished research is being done as to create some real “university” atmosphere. I also keep up, as well as I can, contacts with outside research men, in both the academic and the applied fields.

Politics? I still call myself an Independent Democrat, though I have never yet voted for a presidential candidate who won! The personal views that I hold as to many current political conditions and economic policies, I refrain from writing, for I have no asbestos paper.

Travel? During my Coast Artillery experience, travel was confined mostly to a rocky island far out in Boston Harbor, where it was my fate to have a Mine Command—among other duties. So I did not travel abroad until 1922, when (with my wife) I spent the summer in England as a Sheldon Traveling Fellow, consulting British specialists on unemployment. We also discovered numerous Berridges, above as well as below ground. In 1928 I spent a delightful month in France and Germany, ending a year’s sojourn by the family there. Since then I have delegated my foreign traveling wholly to the family—Italy, Greece, etc.

Hobbies? “Puttering around”—making and doing things at my farm in Berkshire County. We also like music, dancing and theater and perhaps 1 in 10 of the movies produced in recent years. So far, I have never made headway toward realizing either of two old aspirations: (1) to become a “Sunday painter” in both oils and water color, (2) to write a play that would “make” Broadway.

Publications: “Cycles of Unemployment in the U.S.,” Houghton Mifflin Co., 1923; “Purchasing Power of the Consumer” (with two others), A. W. Shaw Company, 1925; “Employment Statistics for the U.S.” (with one other), Russell Sage Foundation, 1926; One chapter in “Unemployment and Business Cycles,” McGraw-Hill Company, 1923; various articles on economic subjects, such as unemployment, labor turnover, gold, silver, foreign trade, U.S. and U.K. business conditions, etc.

Member of: American Economic Association; American Statistical Assn. (fellow); Social Science Research Council (to 1939, representing A.S.A.); American Farm Economic Assn.; Academy of Political Science; American Academy of Political and Social Science; Royal Economic Society, Royal Statistical Society, England; Harvard Club of New York City; Cosmos Club, Washington, D.C.


Source:   Harvard College Class of 1914 Twenty-fifth Anniversary Report. Cambridge, MA: Cosmos Press, 1939, pp. 52-54.

Image Source:  Cover of Harvard Class Album 1946.

Irwin Collier

Posted by: Irwin Collier