Ralph Nelson Elliott (July 28, 1871, in Marysville, Kansas, United States – January 15, 1948) was an American accountant, author, and the creator of the Elliott wave theory, which is based on Fibonacci numbers and is used to describe market trends in the stock market.
Elliott was born in Marysville, Kansas, and later moved to San Antonio, Texas. He entered the accounting field in the mid 1890s and primarily worked in executive positions for railroad companies in Central America and Mexico. After marrying Mary Elizabeth Fitzpatrick (1869-1941) in 1903, Elliott moved back to the U.S. in 1920 and was hired by the U.S. Department of State to perform accounting services (and financial reorganization) for Nicaragua (with was under the control of the U.S. at that time). Not long afterward, Elliott wrote two books concerning social and economic issues in Central America based upon his experiences there: Tea Room and Cafeteria Management and The Future of Latin America. Unfortunately, while working in Central America, Elliott contracted an intestinal illness caused by the organism amoeba histolytica (which is native to that region). The symptoms of this illness progressed over time, ultimately forcing him into early retirement at age 58. It was about this time that he decided to dedicate himself to the study of the behavior of the U.S. Stock Market.
After studying 75 years worth of data of stock market indexes (including yearly, monthly, weekly, daily, hourly, and even half-hourly charts), Elliott published his third book (in collaboration with Charles J. Collins) called The Wave Principle (in August 1938). In it, Elliott advocated that, although stock market trends may appear random and unpredictable, they actually follow predictable, natural laws and can be measured and predicted using Fibonacci numbers. Within a year of the publication of The Wave Principle, Elliott was asked to write 12 articles for Financial World magazine in which he would describe his new system of analyzing market trends.
A decade later (in the early 1940s) Elliott expanded his theory to apply to all collective human behaviors.
Elliott considered his final major work to be his most important book: Nature’s Law — The Secret of the Universe, which was published in June 1946, two years before his death.
Critics of the Elliott Wave Theory contended that it contradicts the efficient-market hypothesis which, as of 2008, remains the mainstream of financial analysis.