International Economics
24 November 2017

Discovering or Rediscovering Vilfredo Pareto

Remembering the legacy of Vilfredo Pareto

The Department of Economics at the grave of Vilfredo Pareto

On Friday 24 November, students and professors embarked on a wonderful journey: discovering or rediscovering Vilfredo Federico Damaso Pareto. After a brief 20 minutes bus ride, the Department of International Economics  arrived in Céligny, an enclave of the canton of Geneva within the canton of Vaud. This is where Vilfredo Pareto, the father of the fundamental economic concept of optimality and of indifference curves, lived for the last part of his life and where he is buried.

In the cemetery, in front of Pareto's tomb, the Head of Department, Jean-Louis Arcand, gave a brief speech about Pareto’s remarkable work and life, highlighting his contributions to  economics and sociology. We were reminded of what it means to be a scientist by one of Pareto's most memorable quotes: ‘‘Give me a fruitful error any time, full of seeds, bursting with its own corrections. You can keep your sterile truth for yourself.” In honor of Pareto, the department's Research Seminar Series will henceforth bear Pareto’s name.

Give me a fruitful error any time, full of seeds, bursting with its own corrections. You can keep your sterile truth for yourself.
Vilfredo Pareto

Students Impressions

Rahul noted that ‘it is a wonderful idea to come and bring flowers to the grave of Pareto, one of the world’s foundational thinkers; moreover, being together as the economics department and talking about his life and his work was inspiring’.

Xiaojing, for her part, thought that ‘the event is very inspiring, because we have the chance to get into the real economics society of Switzerland’, while Chao mentioned that ‘this event gave us the opportunity to be more familiar with the great work of Pareto’ and Dumebi said that ‘it is very nice to put a face and a context to the subjects that we are actually doing’.

Rémi highlighted the combination of paying our respects to a great economist and doing something as a group: ‘it is nice to mix team building with history. This is quite an original idea, not just having drinks somewhere in Geneva. While we also changed the work environment atmosphere, we had the chance to celebrate and pay our respects towards the work belonging to someone that everybody knows in the field of economics’.

This point was further taken up by Carolina, who said that the event ‘was very fun and it was a great opportunity to see more people from the department and get to know them better, especially since during the semester the work load is super intense and we are mainly focused on our studies’.

Domika said that ‘the event was really needed as a lot of us are kind of stressed during the semester’ to which Radu added that ‘what is even nicer is that we did this five days before one of our exams’.

Finally, Mehmet said that ‘it is a great idea as it is nice to bring students together’ and Laura saw it as ‘a good team building opportunity and a fun idea to come here and then have time to talk to each other’.

The department then collectively laid flowers on Pareto's gravestone and, following a quick visit to a nearby cemetery where the Welsh actor Richard Burton, and his barman, are also buried, adjourned to the local auberge where they were joined by the mayor of Céligny.  

Most students, while aware of the importance of Pareto's work to the profession, had been unaware that he was buried so close to the Institute, and within the Canton of Geneva.

A brief group excursion from Geneva was thus (hopefully) transformed into a significant journey of intellectual discovery or rediscovery, both of Vilfredo Pareto, and of our peers.


Dorina Dobre

Master Candidate in Development Studies

Web-editor and coordinator for the Academic Departments


The Department of Economics and the grave of Vilfredo Pareto

The department of Economics on an excursion