Vilfredo Pareto

The Person

The Marquis Vilfredo Frederico Damaso Pareto was born in Paris onJuly 15, 1848. His father, the Marquis Raphael Pareto, came of an oldGenovese family that had been ennobled in the eighteenth century. Whilestill a young man, Raphael Pareto had fled Italy and moved to France in theeighteen thirties. Holding republican opinions and adhering to the libertariancause of Mazzini, he had been persecuted by the House of Savoy, which hadannexed Genova in 1815. While in exile, he married a Frenchwoman, MarieMetenier, and all his children, two daughters and the boy Vilfredo, were bornin France. In Paris, Raphael Pareto worked as a civil engineer; shortly beforethe birth of his son he began the necessary formalities to become a naturalizedFrench citizen. He decided, however, to return to Italy in 1855, and so his son,although bilingual, was educated in that country.

Pareto received a solid classical education in the very demanding Italiansecondary school system and then proceeded to the Turin Polytechnical Schoolto become a civil engineer like his father, who was by then a high-rankingmember of the Piedmontese civil service. The five-year course in civil engineer-ing, the first two years of which were devoted to mathematics, deeply in-fluenced Pareto's future intellectual outlook. In 1870 he graduated with athesis on "The Fundamental Principles of Equilibrium in Solid Bodies." Hislater interest in equilibrium analysis in economics and sociology is prefiguredin this thesis.

From Coser, 1977:402-403.


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