MONIAC inventor Bill Phillips was one of New Zealand's most accomplished economists.
His best known contribution to the field is the Phillips Curve, which in modified
form remains important in modern economic theory.
Alban William Housego Phillips (1914-1975) was born in New Zealand, moved to Australia
soon after leaving school, and in 1937 went to China. He escaped ahead of the Japanese
invasion, reached Britain via the Trans-Siberian Railway, and studied electrical
When the Second World War broke out Phillips joined the Royal Air Force and was
posted to Singapore, escaping to Java on a troopship as the island fell to Japanese
forces. Here he was captured by the Japanese and made a prisoner of war. He put
his inventive skills to use in the camp, building a number of devices including
a miniature radio hidden in a clog.
Awarded a New Zealand Forces scholarship, Phillips attended the London School of
Economics from 1946, studying sociology and economics. It was here that he developed
the MONIAC, which some claim to be the world's first macro-economic computer.
Phillips' most famous contribution to economics remains the Phillips Curve, a relationship
between unemployment and inflation which Phillips analysed during the 1950s and
became a significant cornerstone of economic analysis and thinking for the next
In 1967, Phillips took up a position in the Australian National University. He suffered
a stroke two years later and retired to New Zealand, where he taught at the University
of Auckland. He died in March 1975.
As the twig is bent: personal thoughts, memories and reported experiences about
the life of my brother (unpublished)
Ibbotson-Somervell, Carol S. (1993). A. W. H. Phillips, M.B.E., 1914-1975, A.M.I.E.E.,
A.I.L., PH.D.ECON, Professor Emeritus
Robert Leeson (ed.) (2000). A. W. H. Phillips: Collected Works in Contemporary Perspective
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Phillips, A. W. (1950). Mechanical models in economic dynamics
Economica, 17, p. 283-305
Alan E. (2011). Man, money and machines: the contributions of A. W. Phillips
Economica. 78, p. 1-9