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News Release

University of Minnesota Professor Leonid Hurwicz wins Nobel Prize in economics

(Video/audio available -- links below)

Contacts: Daniel Wolter, University News Service, (612) 624-5551
Patty Mattern, University News Service, (612) 624-2801

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (10/15/2007) — University of Minnesota Regents Professor Emeritus Leonid Hurwicz, along with two other Americans, has been awarded the Nobel Prize in economics today for theories that help set rules for transactions ranging from auctions to elections.

Hurwicz, 90, is the oldest Nobel winner in history, the academy said. The Moscow-born researcher won the award along with Eric Maskin and Roger Myerson. The three men developed a theory that helps explain situations in which markets work and others in which they don't.

“Professor Hurwicz has been one of the most outstanding economists in the entire world,” University President Robert Bruininks said. “He has influenced in a very significant and transformative way the study of economics and the application of economics to important issues on an international scale.”

The group of researchers have “laid the foundations of mechanism design theory,” which plays a central role in contemporary economics and political science, according to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

The academy said the researchers’ work helped explain decision-making procedures involved in economic transactions including, for example, what insurance policies will provide the best coverage without inviting misuse.

The three men, starting in 1960 with Hurwicz, studied how game theory can help determine the best, most efficient method for allocating resources given the available information, including the incentives of those involved.

“Mechanism design theory, initiated by Leonid Hurwicz and further developed by Eric Maskin and Roger Myerson, has greatly enhanced our understanding of optimal allocation mechanisms,'’ the academy said.

Their theory lets economists, governments and businesses “distinguish situations in which markets work well from those in which they do not,” the academy said.

Hurwicz woke up to the news of the Nobel honor this morning.

"I really didn't expect it. There were times when other people said I was on the short list but as time passed and nothing happened I didn't expect the recognition would come because people who were familiar with my work were slowly dying off,'' Hurwicz told reporters.

Hurwicz received his LL.M. (master of laws degree) from Warsaw University, Poland in 1938. He has taught in the areas of theory, welfare economics, public economics, mechanisms and institutions, and mathematical economics. Hurwicz’s current research includes comparison and analysis of systems and techniques of economic organization, welfare economics, game-theoretic implementation of social choice goals, and modeling economic institutions.

For an audio comment from University of Minnesota President Robert Bruininks, visit: http://blog.lib.umn.edu/urelate/radio/BruininksHurwicz_1.mp3

For video commentary from Hurwicz, visit: https://mediamill.cla.umn.edu/mediamill/embed/4919

For video commentary from Bruininks, visit: https://mediamill.cla.umn.edu/mediamill/embed/4920

For a copy of any of these files, please contact Justin Ware or Elizabeth Giorgi at (612) 624-5551.

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