Students say Fischer was a formative influence who inculcated the pragmatic view that government had some power to improve economic outcomes — a middle ground between the academic orthodoxies of the era.
He was a pioneering figure in the effort to formalize this middle ground, helping to forge the approach now known as New Keynesianism. He then set an example for his students by entering public service in the late 1980s, working first at the World Bank and then at the IMF before joining Citigroup.
Bernanke cited Fischer as one of his most important mentors last month, saying that he “demonstrated that he lived what he taught.”
Fischer was born in what is today Zambia. He came to the US as a graduate student and became a US citizen in 1976. When he became governor of the Bank of Israel, he also accepted Israeli citizenship.
Fischer has the self-deprecating manner of many central bankers but is funnier than many of his peers.
In an interview with the Washington Post, he described his first encounter with one of the seminal works of economics, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money by John Maynard Keynes.
“I was immensely impressed,” he said, “not because I understood it, but by the quality of the English.”
The White House did not comment on Fischer’s possible nomination.