Richard Ferdinand Kahn was born in Hampstead, London on 10 August 1905. His father, Augustus Kahn was a schoolmaster and an orthodox Jew, raised in England by his German parents. Augustus married Regina Schoyer, and Richard was one of several children.
Richard Kahn went to St Paul's School; he won a scholarship to King's College and was admitted in 1924. He read mathematics for part I of the tripos, then natural sciences for part II, eventually deciding to continue for a fourth year to study economics. His BA was awarded in 1927. Richard was supervised by Gerald Shove and John Maynard Keynes; he was encouraged by them and by Piero Sraffa to write a Fellowship dissertation, and in 1930 was elected a Fellow of King's College.
Richard Kahn was the Second Bursar of the College from 1935-46, then First Bursar from 1946-51 (following the death of Keynes). He was a Lecturer in Economics within the Faculty of Economics and Politics from 1933. He also held lecturing posts within the College from 1936, and was Director of Studies for economics students at King's from 1947. In 1951 he resigned from these posts to take up a Professorship of Economics, which he retained until 1972. During the second world war Kahn worked as a civil servant with Oliver Lyttelton in the Board of Trade, including a year in Cairo, and in the Ministry of Production and the Ministry of Supply, where he began work on buffer stocks.
Kahn worked closely with members of the Cambridge 'circus' of economists, and was involved in the genesis of Joan Robinson's work on imperfect competition and in John Maynard Keynes' 'General Theory'. Kahn himself published articles in economics journals, and co-authored 'The Free Trade Proposals', (1960) and 'The Problem of Rising Prices', (1961).
Kahn died in Cambridge on 6 June 1989.
Honours: CBE 1946, Fellow of British Academy 1960, created Baron Kahn of Hampstead 1965.
For biographical details of Richard Kahn readers are directed to the following works:
J. Eatwell, M. Milgate and P. Newman (eds.) 'New Palgrave: a dictionary of economics' (London: Macmillan, 1987) vol. 3, pp. 1-3;
G. C. Harcourt 'R. F. Kahn: a tribute', in 'Banca Nazionale del Lavoro Quarterly Review' No. 176, March 1991, pp. 15-30;
King's College, Cambridge 'Annual Report' 1990, pp. 28-39.
The collection contains Kahn's published and unpublished writing, papers relating to his work at King's College and for government departments and other agencies, correspondence and other personal papers. The collection includes papers written by Joan Robinson.
R. F. Kahn died intestate. King's College purchased his papers, amounting to some 80 boxes, from his estate in 1990. In addition, certain material, chiefly letters to Kahn from Joan Robinson and J. M. Keynes, which he had earlier extracted from among his papers and added to the collections of Joan Robinson (at King's College) and J. M. Keynes (then at the Marshall Library), has been returned to its rightful place within the Kahn papers. The previous location of archive material in such cases is indicated in the catalogue.