By David Webb
We were all very sad to hear of the death of Bob Nobay. Bob had a long career in British economics, in which he played a number of important roles.
Bob began his career as an undergraduate at the University of Leicester. After this Bob spent a year at the London School of Economics working with Ralph Turvey with whom he published his first paper on “On Measuring Energy Consumption”, in The Economic Journal (1966). He was an assistant lecturer in economics at the School before moving to the University of Southampton as a Lecturer and then Senior Lecturer. There, he developed as a macro-economist, working alongside notable UK economists Ivor Pearce, David Rowan and Mike Wickens. Throughout this time, he spent parts of many years as a visiting fellow at the University of Chicago. Here he interacted very effectively with some of the US's leading economists. In the early 1980s Bob moved to the University of Liverpool to take a chaired professorship and along with Patrick Minford built a strong department there, which had a significant impact on the development of macroeconomics and monetary analysis in the UK. Liverpool was a relatively small department but proved to be an effective incubator of some important research undertaken by economists such as David Peel and Tim Worrall.
Many people will remember Bob from the early days of the Money Study Group. He and a number of young economists working under the guidance of Harry Johnson played a significant role in developing a modern approach to macroeconomics and indeed of monetary policy in the UK. Principal amongst these were his friends David Laidler, Michael Parkin and Michael Artis. These days, control of inflation is not seen as a significant problem (that may change) but in the 1970s it certainly was, and economists such as Bob played a significant role in bringing a modern empirical approach to understanding inflation in the economy. Bob, more than most, was fully familiar with modern empirical methods for understanding macro phenomena and the drivers of movements in macro-economic data. These methods were developed in the United States through the “rational expectations revolution”. Bob, through his long association with the University of Chicago, provided an important bridge between modern money-macro thinking at Chicago and UK macroeconomic policy. This was reflected in a number of influential publications, notably with Michael Artis.
Bob’s interest in economics ranged widely but he had an enduring interest in the economics of football. Indeed, he wrote his first book on the topic with S. V. Allera, “English Professional Football”, PEP,1966. He was a great fan of Liverpool Football club and was a one-time Director of Fulham Football Club.
Bob also played a very important role in the annual the Association of University Teachers of Economics (AUTE) conference in economics. For many years he ran this jointly with Bernard Corey of Queen Mary’s College London. These conferences were central in developing an international perspective on economics in the UK. They brought together young researchers, who were working on important problems and at the same time allowed UK economists access to frontier research being undertaken by leading international and in particular, American scholars. Bob made sure that some of the world's leading academics attended these conferences. Moreover, he insured that the output of the conferences was collected and published in conference volumes. When the conference transitioned into the Annual Conference of The Royal Economic Society, the papers were published in a special issue of the Economic Journal which ran for a number of years and of which Bob was the inaugural editor.
In the mid-1990s Bob retired from the University of Liverpool and took a position as a Senior Research Associate in the Financial Markets Group at the London School of Economics. Here his role was very significant. Principal amongst his contributions was running weekly PhD workshops, which fostered the development of a number of outstanding PhD students, many of whom have gone on to have careers in the academic profession. He ran the seminar with Margaret Bray, who I know greatly appreciated Bob’s contribution. He also played an important role in a very extensive series of conferences run by the Financial Markets Group over a period of roughly 15 years. There are few conferences upon which Bob’s indelible mark was not impressed. He was instrumental in ensuring the conferences were well-designed and effectively administered, so that from beginning to end the conferences had excellent presentations and at the same time integrated very effectively presentations and discussions. Moreover, Bob was second to none in making sure that all participants felt that they were central to what the group was undertaking through its wide-ranging conferences. There are economists from all over the world who very much appreciate Bob’s friendly demeanour and accommodating style that hopefully made FMG conferences a unique experience.
Bob had many friends in the profession and many people will be truly shocked to hear of his passing. He was a person of enormous personal generosity who certainly put others before himself, treating everyone regardless of status just the same. Those of us who were fortunate enough to know him well, regard it as a great privilege to have worked with him and most of us have special memories of his kindness and genuine friendship.