Robert Solow, founder of the Cournot Centre and Foundation, passed away 21 December, in his 100th year. Bob guided us for 23 years.
We have lost a very close friend, and the world has lost one of its greatest theorists and teachers, inspiring generations of social scientists and economists.
His legacy will live on in our work.

The Cournot Centre is an independent French-based research institute. It is supported by the Cournot Foundation, which operates under the Fondation de France. The Centre takes its name from the pioneering economist, mathematician and philosopher Antoine Augustin Cournot (1801–77).

The Centre enjoys the special independence of a catalyst. My old student dictionary (dated 1936) says that catalysis is the “acceleration of a reaction produced by a substance, called the catalyst, which may be recovered practically unchanged at the end of the reaction”. The reaction we have in mind results from bringing together (a) an issue of economic policy that is currently being discussed and debated in Europe and (b) the relevant theoretical and empirical findings of serious economic research in universities, think-tanks and research bureaux. Acceleration is desirable, because it is better that reaction occurs before minds are made up and decisions taken, not after. We hope that the Cournot Centre can be recovered practically unchanged and used again and again.

Today, much of the activity of the Centre is about the integration of probabilistic thought into other branches of science. Its focus has shifted away from what conventional economics was at the time the Centre was created in 2000. I began academic life not 20 years ago, but more than 70 years ago, with an interest in applying probability models to economics. I wrote my PhD thesis as an example of the sort of thing that could be done at that time, when we had to wait a full quarter to have updates on our inputs. Today, data are not scarce resources for economists. Our profession has followed the path paved by probability and statistics, as it needed to adapt to the growing availability of data.
The available information may not be exactly relevant. Interpretations are therefore uncertain. Different studies, by uncommitted scholars, may give different results. When those controversies exist, it is our hope that the Centre’s events will discuss them. Live debate at that fundamental level is exactly what we are after.

Robert Solow (1924-2023),
Co-Founder of the Cournot Foundation and Centre