Richard Cantillon (1680-1734) was an important figure in the Physiocrat school of economics, and was influential for the development of the classical economists. Cantillon is acknowledged as a precursor of the Austrian school of economic thought.
His fame rests largely on a single, posthumously published work, Essai sur la nature du commerce en général (An Essay on (the Nature of) Commerce in General) (1755). The essay was written right before Cantillon was murdered under mysterious conditions in 1734. According to Nobel laureate Friedrich Hayek "W. S. Jevons, who rediscovered the Essai [during the marginalist revolution and due to the fact that it is one of the few works quoted by Adam Smith], was scarcely exaggerating when he entitled it the 'Cradle of Political Economy'".
As a precursor of Austrian economic theory, Cantillon is the first economist to develop the insights into the role entrepreneurship plays in the economy, his scientific approach was that of the logical-deductive theorizing that is characteristic of the Austrian School and the marginal revolution, his theory of prices has similar to the Austrian subjective theory of value.
Cantillon was born in the town of Ballyheigue, County Kerry, Ireland, lived a considerable portion of his life in France, and died in London.
He is said to have speculated profitably in Compagnie Perpetuelle des Indes shares, unlike so many others, during the John Law adventures, because of his knowledge of monetarism.
- W. Stanley Jevons, "Richard Cantillon and the Nationality of Political Economy," Contemporary Review 39, January 1881, reprinted in The Principles of Economics. A Fragment of a Treatise on the Industrial Mechanism of Society and other Papers with a Preface by Henry Higgs, (London, 1905). pp. 155-83.