Meredith M. Paker

Economic History

Notes & updates

The interesting life of Alfred Mummery

An economist and a mountain climber? The perfect nineteenth century combination! Alfred Mummery built his mountain climbing reputation on the Matterhorn and led the first team to attempt to climb the 8126m Nanga Parbat in the Himalayas. This fatal attempt was in 1895, and Nanga Parbat would take 30 more lives before it was successfully summited in 1953.

Mummery also co-authored The Physiology of Industry in 1889 with economist J.A. Hobson, the famous proponent of under-consumptionist theories. This was a notable contribution to heterodox economics at the time, and J.M. Keynes discussed the work at length in the General Theory chapter 23 (which apparently nobody reads these days). Keynes offers an extended quote from Hobson about how they came to work together. The bit on Mummery's background goes:

"While teaching at a school in Exeter I came into personal relations with a business man named Mummery, known then and afterwards as a great mountaineer who had discovered another way up the Matterhorn and who, in 1895, was killed in an attempt to climb the famous Himalayan mountain Nanga Parbat. My intercourse, I need hardly say, did not lie on this physical plane. But he was a mental climber as well, with a natural eye for a path of his own finding and a sunlime disregard of intellectual authority." (p. 365 in The General Theory CW vol 7)

Read more about Mummery on his Wikipedia page, or enjoy his mountaineering tales in his book My Climbs in the Alps and Caucasus.