A brilliant young scholar of extraordinary energy—he slept a mere three hours a night—he loved the humanities, especially history. But, a pragmatic son of working-class Italian immigrants, he instead chose engineering and took a job with Bell Labs, work he soon found dry and uninspiring.
Grasping for guidance, he even took an aptitude test, which produced an unequivocal—if wrong
“Musician,” he recalled with a laugh.
Fortunately, he compromised between art and science. Now the onetime engineer and not-quite future musician is one of the world’s leading economists....
“We can take a joke because we know economics is important,” he said at one point. “There are 25,000 children who die of starvation each day and more than one billion people who live on less than one dollar a day. This is World Bank data. Certainly, a world where there is so much poverty, and children dying, is not only a world that is unethical, it also not in the long-term interest of the rich counties, because it cannot be peaceful where there is so much poverty.”
Born in a small village in Italy’s Abruzzi region east of Rome, Salvatore learned the value of hard work, education and pragmatism from his parents. His father, Nicholas, rose from modest means to become chef of a prominent hotel restaurant and learned three languages. Convinced that the United States was the “country of the future,” as he told his son, Nicholas Salvatore moved his growing family to New York City in the late 1950s.
-Honors a Matter of Course for Economics Professor and Force of Nature
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