6 September 1933 - 2 May 2022
Axel Leijonhufvud was born September 6, 1933 in Stockholm, Sweden, the youngest of five children of Erik Gabriel Leijonhufvud and Helene Neovius. He grew up in a small town in the south of Sweden where his father had been appointed chief judge of the northern district of Scania. In his teen years Axel began to feel the smallness of his town and his parents reluctantly agreed to let him drop out of gymnasium for a school term to work as a seaman on a school ship, Sunbeam, which sailed from Gothenburg, Sweden to the Caribbean and Recife, Brazil. Axel was a seaman and an officer in the Swedish Army before completing his undergraduate degree at the University of Lund in 1960. He first came to the U.S. on a one-year Scandinavian American Foundation fellowship. The Foundation placed him at the University of Pittsburgh, where he became intensely interested in economics, especially monetary theory, and earned an M.A. Axel never forgot the goodwill and generosity of his professors at Pitt who made possible his Ph.D. studies at one of the foremost U.S. economics departments of that day. At the invitation of Franco Modigliani, who was transferring from M.I.T. to Northwestern, Axel chose Northwestern.
Axel’s doctoral dissertation first published by Oxford in 1968, On Keynesian Economics and the Economics of Keynes, went through many printings and was translated into German, French, Italian, Spanish, Serbo-Croatian, Japanese, and, he would discover, also Chinese (presumably Mandarin). Even more widely published and translated has been an anthropological parody he did on the American “tribes” or schools of thought in the 1960’s entitled “Life Among the Econ”. The article was cited as recently as 2021 by Gillian Tett in the Financial Times. His other well-known books include Information and Coordination (1981) and, with Daniel Heymann, High Inflation (1995). During the Great Recession of 2009, he continued to publish extensively in the on-line journal, VoxEU.
Axel came to UCLA in 1964 where he served as department chairman three times and supervised fifty doctoral dissertations. In 1994, he took early retirement and was in 1995 named Professor of Monetary Economics at University of Trento, Italy. He helped organize the Trento Summer School in Adaptive Economic Dynamics and would remain active in its direction through 2018.
Axel received four honorary degrees: University of Lund, University of Nice, Sophia-Antipolis, University of Cordoba (Argentina), University of Trento, Italy. He had a number of distinguished appointments including Overseas Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge, Institute for Advanced Studies, Princeton, and Centers for Advanced Studies in Jerusalem and in Vienna. He has been Visiting Professor at the University of Strasbourg, European University Institute (Fiesole), Stockholm School of Economics, and University of Konstanz (Germany) and has lectured at universities in many countries throughout the world. As a foremost expert on high inflations and deep depressions Axel gave testimony before Congress on more than one occasion, was involved in one of the monetary stabilization efforts in Argentina in the 1980’s and during the critical transition period gave expert advice to Kazakhstan and an autonomous region in Russia.
Axel was a gentleman in every sense of the word. He will be remembered by those who knew him for his kindness, wit, general sense of humor, and mastery of the English language. He will be greatly missed by his family, colleagues, friends, and the many students whom he mentored.
(From the Obituary of the Los Angeles Financial Times)