Sir James Mirrlees, a Nobel-prizewinning economist, died on August 29th

The optimal economist

WHEN James Mirrlees got the call to say he had won the Nobel prize for economics in 1996, he assumed that a friend was pulling a prank. “Jim politely suggested that it didn’t sound very likely and he’d need some proof,” his wife later recalled. Friends and colleagues say it paints a fair picture of the man: polite and modest in all his dealings; rigorous and evidence-based in his work.

As a youngster, he would have been surprised to be told his future academic field. Born in the village of Minnigaff, in south-west Scotland, at school he had aspired to be a mathematics professor. Two undergraduate degrees in the subject later, from Edinburgh and Cambridge universities, he realised that the question of how to solve poverty in the developing world was “what really mattered”. That meant a career studying economics.

It was only after Oxford University appointed him as a full professor of economics in 1968, at the tender age...

via The Economist: Finance and economics Business Feeds

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