1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Le Play, Pierre Guillaume Frédéric

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LE PLAY, PIERRE GUILLAUME FRÉDÉRIC (1806–1882), French engineer and economist, was born at La Rivière-Saint-Sauveur (Calvados) on the 11th of April 1806, the son of a custom-house official. He was educated at the École Polytechnique, and from there passed into the State Department of Mines. In 1834 he was appointed head of the permanent committee of mining statistics, and in 1840 engineer-in-chief and professor of metallurgy at the school of mines, where he became inspector in 1848. For nearly a quarter of a century Le Play spent his vacations travelling in the various countries of Europe, and collected a vast quantity of material bearing upon the social condition of the working classes. In 1855 he published Les Ouvriers européens, which comprised a series of thirty-six monographs on the budgets of typical families selected from the most diverse industries. The Académie des Sciences conferred on him the Montyon prize. Napoleon III., who held him in high esteem, entrusted him with the organization of the Exhibition of 1855, and appointed him counsellor of state, commissioner general of the Exhibition of 1867, senator of the empire and grand officer of the Legion of Honour. He died in Paris on the 5th of April 1882.

In 1856 Le Play founded the Société internationale des études pratiques d’Économie sociale, which has devoted its energies principally to forwarding social studies on the lines laid down by its founder. The journal of the society, La Réforme sociale, founded in 1881, is published fortnightly. Other works of Le Play are La Réforme sociale (2 vols., 1864; 7th ed., 3 vols., 1887); L’Organisation de la famille (1871); La Constitution de l’Angleterre (in collaboration with M. Delaire, 1875). See article in Harvard Quarterly Journal of Economics (June 1890), by H. Higgs.