Edgeworth, Francis Ysidro (1845–1926), economist and statistician, was born 8 February 1845 at Edgeworthstown, Co. Longford, fifth of six sons of Francis Beaufort Edgeworth and his Spanish wife Rosa Florentina Eroles, daughter of a political refugee from Catalonia; he was a grandson of Richard Lovell Edgeworth (qv). His father died when he was two, and his aunt Maria Edgeworth (qv) two years later, and he was educated at home by tutors till he entered TCD aged 17. Leaving to become a scholar at Magdalen Hall, he then proceeded to Balliol College, Oxford, where he took a first-class degree in literae humaniores. After studying law at the Inner Temple, he was called to the bar in 1877, but never practised, choosing instead to lecture in logic at King's College, London, where in 1888 he was appointed professor of political economy, and in 1890 Tooke professor of economic science and statistics.
In 1891 he became Drummond professor of political economy at Oxford and was elected a fellow of All Souls College, where he resided principally for the remainder of his career. The same year he became the first editor of the Economic Journal, and he is credited with its success by the economist (and later joint editor) John Maynard Keynes. He wrote seven small books and numerous articles and reviews, but did not develop a systematic approach to economics. Thus, he never produced a treatise, once informing Keynes that it was for the same reason he never married – large-scale enterprises did not appeal to him. Instead he applied a highly abstract, mathematical approach to economics, a methodology that was not helped by a difficult writing style. Although his work was sometimes controversial, he made many original contributions to economics and statistics, which are still recognised. For example, in his own lifetime he was the finest exponent of what he himself called ‘mathematical psychics’, the application of quasi-mathematical methods to the social sciences. His career, however, never quite fulfilled its promise.
In 1911 he inherited the Edgworthstown estate, and shortly afterwards became president of the Royal Economic Society (1912–14) and FBA. Ahead of his time in many areas, he argued against the inequality of men's and women's wages. He had an eccentric character and was, according to Keynes, a difficult mixture of reserve, pride, kindness, modesty, courtesy, and stubbornness. His friend and fellow economist Alfred Marshall once said ‘Francis is a charming fellow, but you must be careful with Ysidro’. He was never particularly happy, and died a bachelor, although Keynes admitted that it was not from want of susceptibility to women.
He resigned his chair in 1922 and was appointed emeritus professor. In 1925 his essays were published in three volumes as his Collected economic papers, and for the first time his reputation was properly established throughout the world. He died at Oxford 13 February 1926.