Ruth Cohen (economist)

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Ruth Louisa Cohen (10 November 1906 – 27 July 1991) was a Cambridge economist, who served as Principal to Newnham College, Cambridge from 1954 until 1972.[1]


She studied at Newnham College as an undergraduate in the 1920s. and in 1930 received a Commonwealth Fund fellowship to go to the US. She spent two years at Stanford and Cornell. On her return she worked at Agricultural Economic Research Institute in Oxford where she remained until 1939. She then returned to Newnham College, as a lecturer and Director of Studies in Economics. Shortly after her return she was called to serve in London at the Ministry of Food and then at the Board of Trade. At the end of the war she returned again to Cambridge to teach in economics a role she held until 1972.[2][3][4]

She was elected to be Principal of Newnham College in 1954, Chair of the Ministry of Agriculture Committee for the Provincial Agricultural Advisory Service in 1962 and was awarded a CBE in 1969.[3][4]

After her retirement, from 1973 to 1987, she worked as a Labour Councillor for Newnham Ward on Cambridge City Council- chairing the Finance Committee and being active on the Development Control Sub-committee.[1][3][4]

Within economics in addition to her own published output (see below) Phyllis Deane argues that her major contribution may well have been her revelation of the fatal flaw (or from another perspective, awkward anomaly) in neoclassical capital theory.[2][3][4][5]

Key works[edit]

  • (1930) Factors affecting the price and production of potatoes
  • (1933) Milk marketing schemes and policies
  • (with K. A. H. Murray) (1933) The effect of butter and cheese supplies on ‘surplus’ milk prices
  • (with K. A. H. Murray) (1934; supplements 1935, 36, 37, 38) The Planning of Britain’s food imports
  • (1936) The history of milk prices
  • (1940) The Economics of Agriculture
  • (1953) Survey of national measures for controlling farm prices in Western European countries
  • (with P. L. Cook) (1958) Effects of Mergers


  1. ^ a b Sheila M. Edmonds, 'Economist with milky vision', The Guardian, 3 August 1991
  2. ^ a b Harcourt, G (1972) Some Cambridge Controversies in the Theory of Capital
  3. ^ a b c d Johnson, H (1978) Ruth Cohen: a neglected contributor to contemporary capital theory . In E.S Johnson (1978) The Shadow of Keynes
  4. ^ a b c d Natasha Lehrer, Natasha Obituary Ruth Louisa Cohen Jewish Women's Archive
  5. ^ Deane, Phyllis (1998) Cohen, Ruth Louisa: In The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics.