Sharfman, I. Leo (Isaiah Leo), 1886-1969

Alternative names
Birth 1886-02-19
Death 1969

Biographical notes:

Professor of economics at University of Michigan, referee with National Railroad Adjustment Board, member and chairman of various emergency and arbitration boards under Railroad Labor Act.

From the description of Isaiah Leo Sharfman papers, 1914-1962. (University of Michigan). WorldCat record id: 34423341

Isaiah Leo Sharfman was born in Polonnoe, Ukraine, Russia, February 19, 1886. He came to the United States in 1894 and became a citizen by virtue of his father's naturalization on November 30, 1903. Sharfman graduated from the Boston Latin School in 1904, received the A.B. degree from Harvard College in 1904, and an LL.B. degree from the Harvard Law School in 1910. During the two academic years 1908-10 he was assistant in economics at Harvard.

Sharfman was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar in 1909. He was professor of law and political science at the Imperial Pei-Yang University, at Tientsin, China, in 1910 and 1911, and he was chief investigator of Commission Regulation of Public Utilities for the National Civic Foundation, in 1912.

He came to The University of Michigan in 1912, where he has been, successively, lecturer in economics (1912-13), associate professor (1913-14), professor (1914-55), Henry Carter Adams University Professor (1947-55), and chairman of the Department of Economics (1927-54). In 1939 he was visiting professor of economics at Stanford University, and since 1955 he has been a member of the Board of Trustees of Brandeis University.

Sharfman has been director of an investigation of Anti-Trust Policy for the National Industrial Conference Board (1923-24); a member of the Board of Editors of the American Economic Review (1929-31); a member of the Advisory Committee on Railroad Employment to the Federal Coordinator of Transportation (1933-35); a member of the Advisory Committee on Economists and Social Scientists to the President's Committee on Civil Service Improvement (1939); an associate public member of the National War Labor Board (1942-44); an associate public member of the National Railway Labor Panel (1943-46); a member of the Editorial Board of the Petroleum Monograph Series (1949-59); and since 1936 he has served, intermittently, as referee for the National Railroad Adjustment Board, as a member and chairman of Presidential Emergency Boards, and as a member and chairman of Ad Hoc Arbitration Boards -- all under the Railway Labor Act.

In 1939 Sharfman was awarded the James Barr Ames Prize for legal writing by the Faculty of the Harvard Law School; In 1965 he was selected Distinguished Fellow of the American Economic Association; In 1943 he was Henry Russel Lecturer at The University of Michigan; In 1945 he was President of the American Economic Association; in 1954 he was President of the Michigan Academy of Science, Arts and Letters.

He is the author of Railway Regulation, 1915, The American Railroad Problem, 1921, The Interstate Commerce Commission, 1931-37 (five volumes), and of contributions to economic and legal journals and to the Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences.

From the guide to the I. Leo. Sharfman papers, 1914-1962, (Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan)


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  • Law--Study and teaching
  • Pleading--Study and teaching
  • Jews
  • Railroads--United States
  • Torts--Study and teaching
  • Strikes and lockouts
  • Jews--Michigan
  • Labor movement
  • Strikes and lockouts--Railroads
  • Railroads
  • Working class
  • Railroads--Employees--Labor unions
  • Zionism
  • Labor


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  • Massachusetts--Cambridge (as recorded)
  • Michigan (as recorded)