Working Paper | HBS Working Paper Series | 2007

The Seer of Wellesley Hills: Roger Babson and the Babson Statistical Organization

by Walter A. Friedman

Abstract

Roger Babson was a pioneer of the business-forecasting industry in the United States in the early twentieth century. He built the largest private economic forecasting agency in the period and published a great range of economic statistics in his weekly newsletters. As a forecaster, he was best known for advising investors in the month prior to October 1929 that a "crash" was coming that "may be terrific." Most academics, and many businessmen, ridiculed Babson's forecasting methods, which were informed by his belief, based on his reading of Isaac Newton, that economic "actions and reactions" (or depressions and expansions) would always be equal. But Babson was able to gain a following among investors who thought he was either wise or lucky. His blend of new statistical methods and old common-sense reasoning helped him profit as the forecasting industry first developed.

Keywords: Forecasting and Prediction; Economics; Business History; Newsletters; Personal Development and Career; United States;

Citation:

Friedman, Walter A. "The Seer of Wellesley Hills: Roger Babson and the Babson Statistical Organization." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 08-036, November 2007.