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Fischer Black and the Revolutionary Idea of Finance



"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."

"A fascinating history of things we take for granted in our everyday financial lives."

"Mehrling's book is essential reading for anyone interested in the development of modern finance or the life of an idiosyncratic creative genius."

"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 Institute 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 idiosyncrasies."
BOB LITTERMAN, Partner, Kepos Capital

"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, The University of Chicago

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, and The New Lombard Street: How the Fed became the Dealer of Last Resort. Dr. Mehrling's specialty is the study of financial theory and the history of economics.
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