Jevons, William Stanley

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Jevons, William Stanley

Jevons, William Stanley (jĕvˈənz), 1835–82, English economist and logician. After working in Australia as assayer to the mint, he taught at Owens College, Manchester, and University College, London. His major contribution to economics was his marginal utility theory of value; Jevons held that value was determined by utility, and he demonstrated the relationship in mathematical terms. The Theory of Political Economy (1871) was his chief theoretical work. His practical application of economics in The Coal Question (1865) influenced government action. In General Mathematical Theory of Political Economy (1862), he demonstrated his belief in the application of mathematics to economic theory. His several texts include Pure Logic (1863) and The Principles of Science (1874).


See his Letters and Journal (ed. by his wife, 1886).

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Jevons, William Stanley


Born Sept. 1, 1835, in Liverpool; died Aug. 13, 1882, near Hastings. English economist, statistician, philosopher, and logician. Professor of logic, philosophy, and political economy in Manchester (1866-76) and London (1876-80).

Jevons was the founder of the mathematical school in political economy and one of the founders of marginal utility theory. His Theory of Political Economy (1871) is the best known of his economic works. He considered the main problem of economic science to be the study of demand, whose basic principle was the law of diminishing utility. The limited nature of his economic theory prompted F. Engels’ characterization of it as a “rotten and vulgar political economy” (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 37, p. 299). Jevons was one of the first to attempt to apply mathematical methods to “economic analysis. He continued the development of mathematical logic that G. Boole had begun. At the basis of his theory of logic (the foundation of which was the class calculus) Jevons placed the “principle of the substitution of similars.” He created one of the first logical machines (1869). He connected the theory of logical induction with the theory of probability.


Pure Logic. London, 1864.
The Substitution of Similars. London, 1869.
In Russian translation:
Osnovy nauki. St. Petersburg, 1881.


Bliumin, I. G. Sub’ektivnaia shkola v burzhuaznoi politicheskoi ekonomii. Moscow, 1962. Chapter 5.
Seligman, B. Osnovnye techeniia sovremennoi ekonomicheskoi mysli. Moscow, 1968. (Translated from English.)
Stiazhkin, N. I. Formirovanie matematicheskoi logiki. Moscow, 1967. (With bibliography.)
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.