Nobel Prize in Economics (2015) – ANGUS DEATON

In case you missed it (perhaps also due to the distracting “noise volatility” recorded lately), last week was also dedicated to rewarding some of the brightest minds on the planet.

Angus Deaton
Angus Deaton (Portrait)

Professor of Economics and International Affairs at Princeton University, Angus Deaton was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his ground-breaking works on consumption, poverty & welfare, which have shaped policy and academic studies across the world.

In fact, in an effort to design economic policy with an aim of promoting general well-being while reducing poverty, his studies focused on the measurement of consumption patterns (including how consumers spend, save, and allocate resources among different goods) coupled with their implications on economic development (with a stress on poor countries).


His 2013 book, “The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality” best exemplifies his theories, including the view that today’s world is better than what it used to be, thanks to substantial increases in wealth, health & longevity. However, at the same time, he also raised concerns over mounting inequalities not only between nations, but perhaps more importantly, within them.

“Inequality is an enormously complicated thing, that is both good and bad”

“It is a great danger if inequality becomes so extreme that it can threaten democracy”  

Note that the professor (turning 70 in a few days), born in Edinburgh and with a Ph.D from Cambridge University, is also responsible for establishing a tool (now a standard in academia) enabling to estimate how the demand of any good, is dependent on the prices of all the latter, together with individual incomes.

Along with Daniel Kahneman (in 2002), Paul Krugman (in 2008) and Christopher Sims (in 2011), Angus Deaton becomes the latest Princeton faculty member to receive the most prestigious award in the field of Economics.

Last year, the prize went to the French economist Jean Tirole for his analysis of market power and regulation.

Here is a link to the other Nobel Price winners of 2015 which include: Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature & Peace.

And here is a list of 20+ popular writings from Angus Deaton.


As the inventor of dynamite, Alfred Nobel, a moody yet idealistic Swede, had become a millionaire. When Nobel’s older brother, Ludwig, died on April 12, 1888, a leading French newspaper misread the report and ran an obituary of Alfred Nobel, calling him “Le marchand de mort“.

Upon seeing the statement, Nobel was stunned by the realisation that he would have been considered nothing more but a merchant of death. The need to repair the false image he would have left to the living was one of several factors that led to the establishment, in his will, of the Nobel foundation and the award of prizes to those whose researches had led to advancement in the field of peace, literature and the sciences…

That said, curiously enough, reading Nobel’s will, Mathematics and Philosophy were not included amongst the fields of study “worth” of rewarding (N.B: the scope of Nobel’s foundation is almost unchangeable, different would it had been had Nobel constituted a trust for achieving his testamentary wishes…).

Supposedly, the notable Swedish mathematician Gosta Magnis Mittag-Leffler had run off with Alfred’s wife (allegedly his wife had a philosopher as lover as well). Nobel in revenge had refused to endow one of his prizes to mathematics…

But, wait a second, Nobel was never married!

Another version circulated in Sweden, Mittag-Leffler, in the process of accumulating his own wealth, antagonised Nobel, who concerned by the possibility of him winning a Nobel prize in mathematics, then refused to institute such a prize.

The myths were ultimately debunked in the article by Lars Garding and Lars HormanderWhy Is There No Nobel Prize in Mathematics?” (1985).

The authors point out that Mittag-Leffler and Nobel barely knew each other. “The true answer to the question (of the title) is that, for natural reasons, the thought of a prize in mathematics never entered Nobel’s mind”. Nobel’s final will of 1895 bequeathed $9,000,000 for a foundation whose income would support five annual prizes in physics, chemistry, medicine-physiology, literature, and peace. Four of the original five prizes were in fields close to Nobel’s own interests, medicine being the sole exception.

A sixth Nobel prize in economic science was added in 1969. The addition of this new Nobel prize suggests the possibility of a seventh Nobel prize, making a strong case in favour of a new Nobel prize in the mathematical sciences. Or maybe not…

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