Thursday, 09 February 2023 07:14

In Memoriam: Ronald E. Miller (1934-2023)


Ronald Eugene Miller, Professor Emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania, died unexpectedly on January 26, 2023, at the age of 89. He received the North American Regional Science Council’s David Boyce Award for Service in 1995 for his long, productive career as the Managing Editor of the Journal of Regional Science (1963-1996), as 1986-1987 Vice President of the Regional Science Association, as well as his administrative work at the Regional Department at Penn. In 2006, Regional Science Association International recognized Ron’s body of academic work through the Walter Isard Award for Scholarly Achievement. He was elected a Fellow of the Regional Science Association International in 2012. Ron is perhaps best known for co-authoring, with Peter D. Blair, three editions of Input- Output Analysis: Foundations and Extensions (1985, 2009, 2022).

Born in Seattle, WA in 1934, Professor Miller received a B.A. in Economics at Harvard University in 1955 under the tutelage of Robert Kuenne, who had written a dissertation under Walter Isard in applied input-output (I-O) analysis. Ron’s senior thesis won the Newcomen Prize in Business History, part of which was published in 1957 as “The Impact of the Aluminum Industry on the Pacific Northwest: A Regional Input-Output Analysis” in the journal Review of Economics and Statistics. After a hiatus as a Fulbright Scholar at the Universities of Heidelberg and Munich in 1956, Ron received an M.A. in Economics at the University of Washington in 1957 under then Assistant Professor Arnold Zellner. He subsequently enrolled as a Ph.D. candidate at Princeton University’s Department of Economics. As Ron liked to tell it, his dissertation committee was composed of three secondary authors: Richard Quandt of Henderson & Quandt (1958), Microeconomic Theory: A Mathematical Approach, an advanced microeconomics textbook standard; Oskar Morgenstern of von Neumann & Morgenstern (1944), Theory of Games and Economic Behavior; and Robert Kuenne of Isard & Kuenne (1953), “The Impact of Steel upon the Greater New York–Philadelphia Industrial Region,” an early application of input-output analysis for measuring economic impacts. Ron’s 1961 dissertation was published by the MIT Press in 1963 as Domestic Airline Efficiency: An Application of Linear Programming. It should be no surprise then that his career focused on mathematical economic modeling.

In 1962, Ronald E. Miller, Ph.D., joined the recently formed Regional Science Department at the University of Pennsylvania. There he joined Walter Isard, Benjamin H. Stevens, and their first Ph.D. student, William Alonso. Forever the prototypical Princeton alumnus, Ron quickly developed into a talented teacher and professor, advising scores of graduate students and receiving Penn’s highest award for teaching in 1988. University-wide, his courses perennially ranked near the top in undergraduate student evaluation scores. His basic input-output (I-O) course was required for both graduate and undergraduates in Penn’s Regional Science Department. Lecture notes from these classes as well as from an advanced “topics in I-O analysis” seminar later culminated into early chapters of the 1985 edition of Input-Output Analysis: Foundations and Extensions once Peter Blair joined the Department’s faculty in the mid-1970s. He taught other courses on mathematical programming as well. In 1995, Ronald E. Miller was promoted to Professor Emeritus status by the University of Pennsylvania, to which he had loyally devoted his entire career.

Professor Miller authored and co-authored scores of articles, authored or co-authored six books, and edited two volumes. After publishing his dissertation, Ron refocused his research attention on measuring interregional feedback effects in multiregional I-O models. The earliest of these works are still widely cited today for their development of a technique called “hypothetical extraction,” the first of which (1963) corrected some equations in a salient piece by Professor Leon Moses then at Harvard University.

Ron’s broad knowledge, instant recall of obscure articles, and careful editorial eye will be sorely missed. He also was a frequent and willing manuscript referee and an occasional book reviewer. Ron was also known by colleagues and students for his tidy and organized office and with rare exceptions keeping an immaculate desktop. This led his less orderly, but very close colleague Ben Stevens to assert publicly that “Ron’s so neat he keeps his telephone in a drawer.” When queried about this later, Ron chuckled, replying that just prior to Ben’s weekly arrival to his office Ron made sure to tuck the telephone in his desk. Needless to say, it was great to be within earshot of the banter between these two fast friends. In any case, Professor Ronald E. Miller’s humor and wit will be remembered fondly. It could be snarky and at times biting but was always delivered with a smile and twinkling eyes and in a gentlemanly manner.

Books Authored or Coauthored.

Domestic Airline Efficiency: An Application of Linear Programming. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1963.
(with David Sawers) The Technical Development of Modern Aviation. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1968, and New York: Praeger Publishers, 1970.
Modern Mathematical Methods for Economics and Business. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1972. Reprinted, with corrections and a Solutions Manual, Huntington, NY: Krieger, 1978.
Dynamic Optimization and Economic Applications. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1979.
(with Peter D. Blair) Input-Output Analysis:  Foundations and Extensions. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1985. Substantially revised in both 2009 (2nd ed.) and 2022 (3rd ed.) with Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.
Optimization: Foundations and Applications. New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 2000.

Edited Volumes.

(with Karen R. Polenske and Adam Z. Rose) Frontiers of Input-Output Analysis. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.
(with Michael L. Lahr) Regional Science Perspectives in Economics: A Festschrift in Memory of Benjamin H. Stevens. Contributions to Economic Analysis, No. 249. Amsterdam: North-Holland (Elsevier Science), 2001.
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