In memoriam: Merton Joseph Peck

Merton Joseph Peck, the Thomas DeWitt Cuyler Professor Emeritus of Economics, died March 1, at age 87. He resided in Florida and had been ailing for quite some time, according to his family.

Merton Joseph Peck

Peck was a specialist in industrial organization, and wrote on a variety of topics including the aluminum industry, transportation, the defense industries, and cable and television. He also wrote about the transition to a market economy in the Soviet Union, as well as technological change.

He served in the U.S. Defense Department under Robert McNamara 1961–1963 as director of systems analysis, and he was designated by Time Magazine as one of the “Pentagon Whiz Kids” in 1962. Peck returned to Washington in 1968 to serve on Lyndon Johnson’s Council of Economic Advisors.

At Yale he served as department chair in various years throughout the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, setting a record for number of years in that post. He also served as director of graduate studies, director of undergraduate studies, and acting dean of the Yale School of Management. He was a fellow of Pierson College at Yale.

Peck was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1925. Much of his very early youth was spent in Germany and Strasbourg in Alsace France. His father, Kenneth Peck, was head of European production for American Rake and Hoe. Both his parents died before he was 12, and he was subsequently raised by his aunts and grandmother in various small towns in Ohio. During World War II, Peck served in the Army Signal Corp and participated in the occupation of Japan. After leaving the army, he attended Oberlin College and graduated in 1949. He received his Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University in 1954 under the tutelage of Edward Mason. 

Peck taught at Michigan (1955-1956) and Harvard (1956-1962) before coming to Yale, where he served on the faculty 1963–2002.  He was also associated with the Rand Corporation and Brookings Institution. 

He is survived by his children Richard, Katherine, Sarah, and David; and four grandchildren.  His wife of 55 years, Mary Bosworth Peck, predeceased him in 2004.

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