Keynes was a student and friend of Alfred Marshall, another towering figure in economics. When Marshall died in 1924, Keynes wrote an obituary essay, describing an ideal economist as one who:
… must possess a rare combination of gifts …. He must be mathematician, historian, statesman, philosopher — in some degree. He must understand symbols and speak in words. He must contemplate the particular, in terms of the general, and touch abstract and concrete in the same flight of thought. He must study the present in the light of the past for the purposes of the future. No part of man’s nature or his institutions must be entirely outside his regard. He must be purposeful and disinterested in a simultaneous mood, as aloof and incorruptible as an artist, yet sometimes as near to earth as a politician.
A biographer of Keynes has intimated that the passage was less a description of Marshall than one of Keynes.