Cootner was born in Logansport, Indiana. He attended the University of Florida, where he earned bachelor's and master's degree. He received a PhD in industrial economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1953.
He joined finance faculty of the MIT Sloan School of Management in 1959, where he started work on the "random walk" theory of securities prices, work that led to the 1964 publication of his groundbreaking book.
He died unexpectedly of a heart attack in 1978.
- Cootner, Paul H.; Sharpe, William F.; Cootner, Cathryn M. (1982). Financial economics: essays in honor of Paul Cootner. Prentice-Hall. ISBN 978-0-13-315291-3.
- Cootner, Paul H. (1964). The random character of stock market prices. MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-03009-0.
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