The core question of the MIT economics department’s history—why has MIT economics risen to prominence so quickly?—requires an approach to the history of economics that focuses on the role of the networks within which economists operate and how their ideas diffuse and gain scientific credit. By reconstructing the network of MIT economics PhDs and their advisers, this article furnishes evidence of how MIT rose to prominence as documented by the numerous ties of Nobel laureates, Clark medalists, elected officials of the American Economic Association or the Council of Economic Advisers to the MIT network. It also reveals the MIT economics department as a community of self-replicating economists who are largely trained by a few key advisers who were mostly trained at MIT as well. MIT has a disproportionate share of graduates who remain in American academe, which may be an important factor in MIT’s rise to prominence. On a methodological level this article introduces collective biography, or prosopography, a well-established historiographical method, to the field of the history of economics.

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