The first economist to win a Nobel Prize

Economist Muhammad Yunus, has won the Nobel Peace Prize, for his work on microcredit. From the citation:

Muhammad Yunus has shown himself to be a leader who has managed to translate visions into practical action for the benefit of millions of people, not only in Bangladesh, but also in many other countries. Loans to poor people without any financial security had appeared to be an impossible idea. From modest beginnings three decades ago, Yunus has, first and foremost through Grameen Bank, developed micro-credit into an ever more important instrument in the struggle against poverty. Grameen Bank has been a source of ideas and models for the many institutions in the field of micro-credit that have sprung up around the world.

This AP story is also worth reading.

Although people often refer to it as such, the economics Nobel isn’t a real Nobel Prize. So a pedant could say that this is the first time an academic economist has won a Nobel Prize.

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8 Responses to The first economist to win a Nobel Prize

  1. Nadine Murshid says:

    Being a Bangladeshi, I’m hardly going to disagree!

  2. Oz says:

    A good choice for the prize.
    I also found it interesting that Yunus was the inaugural recipient of the Sydney Peace Prize.

  3. Peter says:

    You are correct, Andrew, to say that “The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel” is not strictly a Nobel Prize, since it was not one of the prizes originally endowed by Alfred Nobel’s will. However, the current trustees of his will recognize it sufficiently to include it on their web-pages right beside the other prizes, which fact I think permits us to call it legitimately a “Nobel Prize”:

    http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/economics/

    http://nobelprize.org/prize_awarders/

    The Nobel trustees do not afford the same honour to the equivalent prizes in Mathematics (the Abel Prize) or Computer Science (the Turing Award), both of which, like the prize in Economics, were deliberate copies of the Nobel Prizes.

  4. Peter says:

    Also: Yunus might be the first academic economist to win a Nobel Prize, but he is not the first person with a degree in economics to win one: Mikhail Gorbachev (Peace, 1990) has a degree is agricultural economics.

  5. Andrew Leigh says:

    Peter, good suggestion. I’ve tweaked the post.

  6. Patrick says:

    I agree that this is by far one of more meritorious Peace prizes. The Economist, interestingly, argues that it supports its now well-established campaign for not awarding the prize as often – an argument lent strength by the scarcity of deserving recipients in the last 30 years:

    In searching out individuals to praise for a variety of good deeds, to make celebrities of the well-meaning in various walks of life, is to confuse the purpose of the prize: to promote peace. The organisers could recall that on 19 occasions since the prize was first given out in 1901, the institute declared that it could find no fitting winner. During much of the first and second world wars, for example, no winner was named. But the last time the institute dared to do that was in 1972. What has changed since then, one might suspect, is that the institute has found it has a great need—for marketing purposes perhaps—to give out the prize. The challenge, for the next few years, will be to find the bravery to hold back.

  7. Peter says:

    Well, contrary to these views, a Peace Prize (whether Nobel or the Sydney Prize or others) does a lot more than just reward efforts which have achieved peace. It can reward valiant efforts which failed (eg, Henry Kissinger & Le Duc Tho 1973) or reward efforts which have yet to pay off (International Campaign to Ban Landmines & Jody Williams 1997), or simply express solidarity with the victims of violence (Aung San Suu Kyi 1991).

    It beggars belief that there were no suitable candidates for this Prize during either WWI or WWII. During WW I, for example, Herbert Hoover’s private efforts at raising and distributing foreign aid to people in Europe should have made him a good candidate for the Prize.

    More likely than the real absence of candidates would be Sweden’s timidity when faced with a moral decision. This was a country, after all, that was neutral during WW II !

  8. Amran Haroon says:

    It is almost impossible to find a decision that is not worth dispute.

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