April 27, 1944–April 22, 2002
BY THOMAS R. PALFREY
RICHARD MCKELVEY DIED TOO young, on April 22, 2002, at the age of 57, and the social sciences lost a great scholar. He was a deep, creative thinker who set the standard for mathematical rigor in political science and also contributed in major ways to other fields. He was a central intellectual figure in the first generation of formal political theorists and was on board at the embarkation of the exciting new field of positive political theory. Positive political theory applied and further developed the sophisticated tools of game theory and social choice theory to the analysis of politics and political phenomena. Like several others, that generation was largely a product of the Rochester school, the great legacy of Bill Riker. McKelvey helped spread that legacy.
He was best known for a series of pathbreaking papers on the mathematical theory of voting in the 1970s, but he also made significant contributions to the application of statistical techniques to the analysis of political science data, social choice theory, computational techniques in economics, experimental economics and political science, and game theory. He was a scientist in the true sense of the word, developing intricate theoretical models of politics, testing his and others’ theoretical models in the laboratory, learn-