Birthplace Liverpool, England.
Posts Held Assayer Australian Mint, 1854-8; Tutor, Lect., Prof. Logic and Moral Philo., Owens Coll., Manchester, 1863-76; Prof. Polit. Econ., Univ. Coll. London, 1876-81.
Degrees BA, MA Univ. London, 1860, 1862.
Offices and Honours Pres., British Association for the Advancement of Science, 1870.
Publications Books: 1. Investigations in Currency and Finance (1863-84); 2. The Coal Question (1865, 1906); 3. The Theory of Political Economy (1871, 1957, 1970); 4. The State in Relation to Labour (1888, 1972); 5. Principles of Economics (1905); 6. R. D. Collison Black, ed. Papers and Correspondence of William Stanley Jevons , 7 vols (1972-81).
Career With Menger and Walras he was one of the three co-discoverers of marginal utility theory, but was also widely known for his textbooks on logic and his applied economic studies. In The Coal Question , he treated coal as the essential resource for the British industrial economy and argued that it was an exhaustible resource. His other quantitative studies, collected posthumously in Investigations , were largely concerned with economic fluctuations, which he examined through statistics on secular movements, business cycles and secular trends. His later work included that heroic but doomed attempts to trace business cycles to sunspot activity. His discovery of the marginal utility concept in 1862 aroused no interest, and not until Theory of Political Economy was published in 1871 was it properly made public. The root of his inspiration was Bentham's `felicific calculus' of pleasure and pain. Although Theory of Political Economy provides only half the entire field of microeconomics -- the theory of consumer behaviour -- the book, along with the treatises of Menger and Walras, must be considered as opening up a new period in economic theorising. The preface to the second edition, together with a bibliography of works on mathematical economics dating back to 1711, did much to teach the generation that came after him about the long history of marginal analysis and utility theory in the century before 1871.
Secondary Literature J. M. Keynes, Essays in Biography (Macmillan, 1933, 1972); T. W. Hutchison, `Jevons, William Stanley', International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences , D. L. Sills (ed.) (Macmillan and Free Press, 1968), vol. 8; R. D. Collison Black, `W. S. Jevons', in Pioneers of Modern Economics in Britain , eds. D. P. O'Brien and J. R. Presley (Macmillan, 1981)