Phoebus J. Dhrymes (1932-2016)

Obituary 
Phoebus J. Dhrymes
Edwin W. Rickert Professor of Economics

 

Phoebus J. Dhrymes (1932-2016), the Edwin W. Rickert Professor Emeritus of Economics, was a Cypriot American econometrician who made substantial methodological contributions to econometric theory.  Born in the Republic of Cyprus in 1932, Phoebus Dhrymes arrived in the United States in 1951, settling with relatives in New York City. After a few months, he volunteered to be drafted into the US Army for a two-year tour of duty; afterwards he attended the University of Texas at Austin on the GI Bill. In 1961 he earned his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology under the supervision of Edwin Kuh and Robert Solow (Nobel Laureate 1987).  After a year-long post-doctoral fellowship at Stanford, he began his professorial career at Harvard, then moved to the University of Pennsylvania, and then UCLA.  In1973 he joined the Department of Economics at Columbia University; he was named the Edwin W. Rickert Professor of Economics in 2003 and retired in 2013.

Econometrics refers to that aspect of the economist’s work concerned with quantifying and testing economic trends. Phoebus Dhrymes‘early research focused on problems of production and investment, but he soon turned to more methodological work and produced important results on time series and on simultaneous equations.  Throughout his career, Phoebus Dhrymes placed much emphasis on the dissemination of scientific knowledge. In the early 1970s he helped found the Journal of Econometrics, which has become the leading journal in this field.  He was also on the advisory board of the Econometric Theory, and was managing editor and editor of the International Economic Review.He was a fellow of the Econometric Society and the American Statistical Association.Dr. Dhrymes was also one of the founders of the University of Cyprus, from which he was later awarded an honorary degree.

He wrote a series of influential textbooks including Distributed Lags:  Problems of Estimation and Formulation. This work was translated into Russian and published by the Academy of Sciences of the Soviet Union, and in the 1970s Dr. Dhrymes was invited to visit the (now former) Soviet Union, specifically Moscow and Novosibirsk. At the time such visits were unusual events for westerners, requiring rarely-issued visas and security clearances, particularly for centers of research such as Novosibirsk.

In a 1999 interview he characterized his books as “filters that distill and synthesize the wisdom of many contributors to the subject.   On this score, I was influenced in my writing by the way I learn when studying by myself.”  (Econometric Theory, 18, 2002)

Dr. Dhrymes is survived by his daughter, Alexis, and his sons, Phoebus and Philip. In his personal life, he was regarded as a generous, kind and gentle man, always there for his family. He came from humble beginnings, and garnered great respect from his family and friends for his achievements. He spoke often of how much he enjoyed teaching. He was always available to his students.He encouraged individualized thinking and understanding of processes rather than rote memorization in learning. He had a warm and affable demeanor, recalled fondly by former students and family members. He will be sadly missed.