YEARS IN THE DEPARTMENT:
Mathematical Economics, History of Economic Thought
Hans Julius Brems was born on October 16, 1915 in Viborg, Denmark, and received his doctorate degree from the University of Copenhagen in 1941. He then worked at the Danish Finance Ministry until 1953, when he began teaching economics at the University of Copenhagen. Brems taught there until he moved to the United States in 1951, fearing the Soviet Union would occupy his native country.
Brems began teaching in the U.S. at the University of California at Berkeley, but moved to the University of Illinois in 1954. Shortly after arriving at Illinois, he spoke at a Department of Economics seminar about the growing movement of using mathematics to model economic theory. Brems explained that one of the best ways to overcome the language barrier resulting from the influx of European economists to the U.S. after World War II could be solved by using mathematics as a common “language” of sorts.
While Brems himself was fluent in English, he had exceptional skills in mathematics like many of his European colleagues. One of his first applications of these skills in an economic context was with his model of the American automotive industry’s growth during the 1950s. At the time, it was rare for an economist to use a mathematical model for forecasting; today, few would perform an analysis without one.
Over the next four decades, Brems went on to become one of the most published economists in the country. He would write eight books during his career, and published articles in many prestigious economics journals. Brems often returned to Europe on lecture tours throughout his time at Illinois. He retired from teaching in 1986, but continued to lecture for years as a Professor Emeritus.
“The best years of my life have been the one-third century at Illinois,” Brems wrote when he retired. “Where else could one find one of the world’s largest libraries and pioneering electronic digital computers only a dozen bike minutes away from the wide horizons, the fresh air, the tall corn, and the gleaming snow of the prairie.” Hans Brems died on September 21, 2000, at the age of 84.
University of Copenhagen, 1941
- Brems, Hans. Quantitative Economic Theory: A Synthetic Approach. New York: Wiley, 1967. Print.
- Brems, Hans. Inflation, Interest, and Growth: A Synthesis. Lexington, Mass: Lexington Books, 1980. Print.
- Brems, Hans. Pioneering Economic Theory, 1630-1980: A Mathematical Restatement. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986. Print.
- Brems, Hans. Output, Employment, Capital, and Growth: A Quantitative Analysis. New York: Harper, 1959. Print.
- Brems, Hans. Fiscal Theory: Government, Inflation, and Growth. Lexington, Mass: Lexington Books, 1983. Print.