Ben Bernanke, the economics professor who became the world's most powerful central banker, took time out from running the Federal Reserve to return to the classroom yesterday - to launch a short lecture series for students at George Washington University in the US capital.

"Gee, this is great. This is what I used to do before I got into my current line of work," Bernanke said, before settling into a lecture on the origins and mission of the Fed.

In a long career at Princeton University, Bernanke became the foremost scholar of the Great Depression, before leaving for Washington where he ended up having to use all the tools of the central bank to prevent the 2007-09 financial crisis triggering a similar economic calamity.

Bernanke's decision to do a few hours' teaching was much more than simply indulging his nostalgia for his days in the classroom, though.


The legitimacy of the Fed is under attack as never before, with a potent "End the Fed" movement being fermented in particular among students attracted to the insurgent presidential campaign of the libertarian Republican Ron Paul.

In his first instalment, Bernanke traced the origins of central banking to Sweden in 1668 and to the establishment of the Bank of England in 1694, and he details how central banks are needed to act as lenders of last resort to stem financial panic.

Bernanke will return to George Washington three more times in the next fortnight to complete his lecture series, which is called "Reflections on the Federal Reserve and Its Place in Today's Economy".

- Independent