In memoriam: Mars Cramer

19 March 2014

The Faculty of Economics and Business was saddened by the news that professor Mars (J.S.) Cramer passed away on March 15, 2014. His demise was unexpected: despite his age, he was an active academic until the day before he died.

Mars Cramer

Jan Salomon Cramer (born April 26, 1928) studied Economics at the University of Amsterdam, where he obtained his nickname Mars. After his graduation he was employed for a number of years by the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis (CPB), after which he held research positions in Cambridge (U.K.) and Paris. He obtained his PhD 1961 from the UvA, supervised by professor Piet de Wolff.  In 1962, at the age of 33, he was appointed Professor of Econometrics at the UvA, and shortly thereafter he became director of the Institute of Actuarial Science and Econometrics, home of the newly established undergraduate degree programme in econometrics. In the period 1985–1992 he was director of SEO Economic Research, after which he became Dean of the UvA’s Faculty of Economics and Econometrics. In addition, he acted as member of the (first) Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR) from 1972 to 1977, and in 1983 he was appointed as member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. After his retirement in 1995, Mars Cramer continued to be involved with the econometrics section of the Faculty of Economics and Business, and the Tinbergen Institute (where he  was an honorary fellow). 

Mars Cramer developed an interest in empirical econometric research of consumer behaviour during his stay in Cambridge, influenced by the Nobel laureate Richard Stone. He played a pioneering role in the development of micro-econometrics in the 1970s and 1980s.  His international impact is evident from the fact that he was elected fellow of the Econometric Society in 1972. The liber amicorum presented to him on his 25th anniversary as a professor contains contributions from prominent micro-econometricians Charles Manski, Richard Blundell and Guido Imbens.  Among his PhD students are renowned researchers such as Martin Fase, Geert Ridder, Jan Kiviet, Coen Teulings en Mirjam van Praag. In his research, Mars emphasized the application of econometrics to empirical problems, which sometimes motivated the development of new econometric methods. This focus is also evident from his monograph “Empirical Econometrics”, published in 1969. He was known for his meticulous empirical analyses, and his care in handling and preserving the data. His research focussed on the demand for durable consumption goods, the velocity of money, and the theory and practice of prediction. Regarding the latter topic, it should be mentioned that earlier in 1977, he chaired a committee that produced a survey of future developments in the Netherlands under the title “The next twenty-five years”. More recently, he produced medium-term forecasts of student inflow and outflow at the Faculty of Economics and Business. 

Mars was known for his originality and his wit. He possessed a genuine academic curiosity and a rather characteristic style of writing. For example, his research into the velocity of money led him to study the velocity of particular coins. As a student he served as editor of the literary student periodical Propria Cures, and he continued to intermittently publish short stories and opinion pieces. In 2012, the Washington Post published his moving account of his wife Til’s euthanasia four years earlier. In recent years, he could be found in his office at the department on an almost daily basis, surrounded by friends and colleagues. Indeed, he continued working on new research projects and contributing to the supervision of students until the very last day before his passing. As remarked by his daughter Sylvia, he died in harness. Mars Cramer was an inspiring and amiable man; he will be dearly missed by many colleagues and students.

Faculty of Economics and Business