Vilfredo Pareto biography and quotes

Vilfredo Pareto - Toolshero

Vilfredo Pareto (1848 – 1923) was an Italian engineer, sociologist, economist, scientist and philosopher. During his career Vilfredo Pareto made several important contributions to economics, including a study of national income distribution and tools to analyse individual choices. One of his best known theories is the 80-20 rule which was later developed by Joseph M. Juran. This article covers his biography, quotes and publications.

Biography Vilfredo Pareto

Vilfredo Pareto earned a Master’s degree in Engineering (MSc.) from what is now the Polytechnic University of Turin in 1870. A few years later he obtained his doctor’s degree (Ph.D.) at the same university with his dissertation ‘The Fundamental Principles of Equilibrium in Solid Bodies’.

His interest in economics and sociology can be traced back in the equilibrium analyses.

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Shortly after he had obtained his doctorate, he went to work as a civil engineer for the Italian Railway Company. Vilfredo Pareto worked there for a number of years after which he became more and more interested in the liberalization of the free market.

In 1886, Vilfredo Pareto changed his career by becoming a lecturer on management and economics at the University of Florence in Italy. Vilfredo Pareto settled there and his stay was marked by political activity as he was frustrated with government regulations.

In 1893 Vilfredo moved to Switzerland because he was offered a lecturer’s position at the University of Lausanne.

In 1906 Pareto made a ground breaking observation, namely that 20% of the Italian population owned 80% of the property.

This observation/ insight was later generalised in several areas within the field of economics. Joseph Juran referred to this observation as the ‘Pareto Principle’, which is also globally known as the 80-20 rule.

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Famous Quotes

  1. “Give me a fruitful error any time, full of seeds, bursting with its own corrections. You can keep your sterile truth for yourself.”
  2. “The assertion that men are objectively equal is so absurd that it does not even merit being refuted.”
  3. “The intent of sincere humanitarians is to do good to society, just as the intent of the child who kills a bird by to much fondling is to do good to the bird.”
  4. “When it is useful to them, men can believe a theory of which they know nothing more than its name.”
  5. “For a very long time, and among a large number of peoples, political power has belonged to the owners of the land.”
  6. “My wish is to construct a system of sociology on the model of celestial mechanics, physics, and chemistry.”
  7. “In any series of elements to be controlled, a selected small fraction, in terms of numbers of elements, always accounts for a large fraction in terms of effect.”

Books and Publications by Vilfredo Pareto et al.

  • 2015, 1935. The Mind and Society (Trattato Di Sociologia Generale), Harcourt, Brace.
  • 2014, 1906. Manual of Political Economy: A Critical and Variorum Edition. OUP Oxford.
  • 1991, 1968. The Rise and Fall of Elites: An Application of Theoretical Sociology. Transaction Publishers.
  • 1984, 1921. The Transformation of Democracy. Transaction Publishers.
  • 1966. Sociological writings. Praeger.
  • 1927. Manuel d’économie politique. Paris: Marcel Giard.
  • 1920. Fatti e teorie.
  • 1916. Trattato sociologia the generals (General sociology, 1955, up-to-date under ISBN 3-89879-144-0).
  • 1911. Le mythe et la littérature immorale vertuiste (The virtue myth and the immoral literature, 1968).
  • 1906. Manuale di Economia Politica con una Introduzione alla Scienza Sociale.
  • 1902. Les of systémes socialistes.
  • 1897. Cours d’Economie politique, Journal: Revue Economique – REV ECON, vol. 7, no. 3.
  • 1897. The New Theories of Economics, Journal of Political Economy – J POLIT ECON, vol. 5, no. 4.
  • 1894. Il massimo di utilità dato dalla libera concorrenza. Giornale degli economisti, 48-66.
  • 1892. La teoria dei prezzi dei signori Auspitz e Lieben e le osservazioni del professore Walras. Giornale degli economisti, 201-239.
  • 1892. Considerazioni sui principii fondamentali dell’economia politica pura. Giornale degli economisti, 389-420.

How to cite this article:
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Original publication date: 04/14/2012 | Last update: 05/22/2023

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Vincent van Vliet
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Vincent van Vliet

Vincent van Vliet is co-founder and responsible for the content and release management. Together with the team Vincent sets the strategy and manages the content planning, go-to-market, customer experience and corporate development aspects of the company.


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