Fischer Black Chair

The Fischer Black Visiting Professorship of Financial Economics is an endowed chair for visiting faculty named in memory of Professor Fischer Black, an MIT Sloan Finance Group faculty member from 1975 to 1984. Black was one of the most influential finance academics of all time, and—as co-author of the Black-Scholes option-pricing formula—became an icon on Wall Street as well as in academia. His remarkable life and works are chronicled in the biography by Perry Mehrling, Fischer Black and the Revolutionary Idea of Finance (Wiley, 2005).

The Fischer Black Chair has a unique mandate structured by his friends and colleagues to honor his iconoclastic style, which is described in the following passage taken from the letter informing him of this chair:

The holders will be first-rate minds whose contributions are either in finance directly or in the applications of finance principles to the analysis of general economics. Holders of the Chair should exemplify the research qualities of its eponym: originality, curiosity, dedication to scholarship, intellectual honesty, and the courage to challenge the status quo. The holder's work should demonstrate a commitment to the fundamental thesis that good research influences good practice. Reflecting your own career, successive holders of the Chair are expected to come from both the academic and practitioner communities.

The choice of a visiting instead of a permanent professorship is intended to encourage the development and exchange of new ideas and perspectives in finance. It will also help MIT specifically, and the profession more generally, to avoid intellectual in-breeding and stagnation. The Chair-holders will have no regular teaching responsibilities. Instead they will be expected to give a series of lectures on topics of special interest and be a general intellectual resource for the MIT faculty. As you have done for so many of us, Chair-holders should offer detailed and critical comments on the finance faculty's research.

Robert Merton and Myron Scholes summarized the reaction of Fischer Black (Journal of Finance, December 1995) to this unique chair in the following way:

On receiving this tribute, Fischer, in his typically modest way, expressed “stunned” surprise that his friends and colleagues chose to honor his contributions. He was clearly overjoyed at the tribute. Fischer was especially touched that the details of the three parts—the visiting professorship, the prize, and the commentaries on his contributions—so closely captured his values about science. As he put it, “Someone out there seems to know me! … I hope it helps to spread my enthusiasm for finding useful truths.” … This is the way he wanted to be remembered.

Holders of the Fischer Black Visiting Chair in Financial Economics include:

  • Stephen Ross
  • John Campbell
  • Raghu Rajan
  • Douglas Breeden