Carnegie Mellon University Beginnings Lead to Nobel for Williamson

Article excerpt

As a doctoral student at Carnegie Mellon University in the 1960s, Oliver E. Williamson wrote a dissertation that would transform economic theory.

On Monday, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences recognized his work by awarding him a Nobel Prize in economic sciences. He became the eighth person with CMU ties to win a Nobel Prize in economics.

"I can't imagine any other school producing three Nobel laureates who got their degrees in a 10-year period," said Ilke Baybars, deputy dean of the Tepper School of Business at CMU.

Williamson, 77, an economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, could not be reached for comment. He received his doctorate from Carnegie Mellon in 1963. Nobel laureates Edward C. Prescott and Finn E. Kydland graduated from the university in 1967 and 1973, respectively.

Williamson shares the $1.4 million prize with Elinor Ostrom, a professor of political science and public and environmental affairs at Indiana University. She is the first woman to win a Nobel in economics.

"Oliver Williamson opened up the question about how firms' management influenced pricing, output and hiring," said Allan Meltzer, the Allan H. Meltzer University Professor of Political Economy at CMU who served on Williamson's dissertation committee. Before Williamson's work, he said, economics theory focused on the market but not firms and their management.

Williamson's theory, for example, could apply to whether an aluminum company should own bauxite mines and process the ore or let other firms do that. …