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Remembering Robert Solow

The MIT economist and Nobel laureate Robert Solow, who passed away in December at the age of 99, was a seminal figure, renowned for his groundbreaking research on the drivers of economic growth. But, above all, he was a man of exemplary integrity, remarkable humility, and great personal warmth.

KOLKATA – The recent passing of legendary MIT economist and Nobel laureate Robert Solow at the age of 99 has triggered a wave of tributes honoring his pioneering research, which deepened our understanding of the relationship between investment, technology, and economic growth. His monumental contributions to the field are widely acknowledged, but for me his passing creates a profound and unexpected sense of personal loss.

During the 2001-02 academic year, I was a visiting professor at MIT, where I taught microeconomics and was expected to give a few other lectures. Olivier Blanchard, then-chair of the economics department, explained that due to limited space, I would have to share a cluster of three offices, the other occupants being Solow and Paul Samuelson. Although the thought of being in a cluster with two Nobel laureates was somewhat discomfiting, my trepidation was unwarranted; my neighbors turned out to be lovely people. I got to know both Samuelson (who died in 2009), and Solow well during that academic year.

By then, Solow had established himself as a towering figure, renowned for his extensive contributions to the field, particularly his groundbreaking research on the drivers of economic growth. Over his illustrious career, he received every major economics award, culminating in the Nobel in 1987.