October 28 1903-October 27, 1982
BY DAVID S. LANDES
ABBA PTACHYA LERNER was born in Bessarabia (then in Russia) in 1903 and came to England as a child of three, one more lucky escapee from endemic and epidemic persecution of Jews. We know little of his childhood, but the variety of his early work experience bespeaks the Outsider. No public or grammar school; no scholarships or fellowships. From the age of sixteen he worked as a machinist, a teacher in Hebrew schools (possibly the worst-paid job ever invented), and as a businessman. When he entered the London School of Economics in 1929, he brought with him the lessons of a variegated career and a maturity beyond that of his classmates, as well as an invaluable sense of what it was like out there in the Real World.
At LSE Lerner found a subject to his measure and a benign appreciative environment that gave full play to an extraordinary natural talent. In his first year he won the director's Essay Prize and a Tooke scholarship; these were only the first of a series of honors that crowned a run as first-place student in economics. He took his bachelor's degree in 1932 and went on to graduate study, first at LSE, then at Cambridge and Manchester. It was while still a graduate student that he persuaded Paul Sweezy and Ursula Webb (later Ursula Hicks) to join him in founding The Re-