UChicago economist Lester Telser dies aged 91

A University of Chicago scholar most widely known for his field-defining work on core theory, has died at the age of 91.

Lester Telser passed away on Sept. 3, after studying and teaching at UChicago for more than 50 years. 

He was born in Chicago on Jan. 3, 1931, and grew up in the middle of the Great Depression, which heavily influenced his decision to study economics.

Telser is most well known for his work on core theory – the variant of game theory that involves groups of people working cooperatively, instead of individually, to maximize their advantage.

He published influential books on the theory including Competition, Collusion, and Game Theory; Theories of Competition; and The Core Theory in Economics: Problems and Solutions.

Telser earned his Ph.D. in economics, which was supervised by Milton Friedman, from the University of Chicago in 1956. As a graduate student, he served as a research assistant at the Cowles Commission, which applies mathematical and statistic analysis to economic theory.

After serving in the U.S. Army for two years, Telser returned to the University of Chicago as a faculty member in the graduate school of business, which is now known as Chicago Booth. In 1964 he joined the university’s department of economics as a professor, which is a position he held for over three decades.

Following his retirement in 1997, Telser remained a vibrant member of the academic community at UChicago. He continued to publish papers and to give book recommendations.

Victor Lima, a senior instructional professor in economics at Chicago, and one of Lester’s former students, said: “The generosity to share his knowledge with his students was, in my view, unparalleled.”

“When I think of Lester, I think not only of an off-the-charts great economist, but also an all-around brilliant man with deep knowledge in a lot of different fields,” added Lima. “He was a very generous, kind man.”