Recently I have read a great article about Olivier Blanchard and I wonder why he has chosen to dedicate his life to study economics? Moreover he managed to do a research in several subfields, which is very impressive.

In the article we can find a quote:

Also at Nanterre, he developed a fascination with economics and the ways in which it could be used to make the world a better place

Is there any good book or an article which explain why Nobel prize winners chose to study economics? How did they get passionate about economics?

  • $\begingroup$ Just an additional information, Nanterre is a somewhat special university in sense that you can mix different courses from different fields. As an example, you can mix sociology courses with economics courses. They are very flexible between different disciplines. $\endgroup$ Feb 9, 2017 at 11:10

2 Answers 2


The Nobel Prize website is a good source of information. On the economics prize page they have a link to a page for each laureate. From there you can find, in particular, a biography for each prize winner where the laureates often talk about the genesis of their interest in economics.

For example, Eric Maskin writes

I became a math major at Harvard College, where I studied algebra with Pierre Samuel and Richard Brauer and analysis with George Mackey and Lars Ahlfors − all of them inspiring, some of them amusingly eccentric. Almost by accident, I wandered at one point into a course on "information economics" taught by Kenneth Arrow, later my Ph.D. advisor. The course was a hodgepodge of topics from the frontier of economic theory, but a good part of it was devoted to Leonid Hurwicz's work in the nascent field of mechanism design. This work was a revelation to me: it had the precision, rigor, and sometimes the beauty of pure mathematics and also addressed problems of real social importance − an irresistible combination.

In fact, I ended up essentially doing an economics Ph.D. The degree was nominally in applied mathematics. But the applied math program at Harvard in those days was remarkably flexible, and allowed students to study whatever they wanted, as long as they wrote a thesis with "significant mathematical content." I took quite a few economics courses (although none, I regretted later, in macroeconomics or economic history), including Truman Bewley's general equilibrium course, where I first got to work with my classmate and later co-Laureate Roger Myerson (we sometimes tackled the rather demanding problem sets together) and Jerry Green's analytic seminar, whose student participants included Elhanan Helpman, Bob Cooter, and Jean-Jacques Laffont.

As an advisor, Ken Arrow was amazingly generous with his time; and I learned an immense amount from our many one-on-one discussions in his office.


Maybe Lives of the Laureates?

Lives of the Laureates offers readers an informal history of modern economic thought as told through autobiographical essays by twenty-three winners of the Nobel Prize in Economics. The essays not only provide unique insights into major economic ideas of our time but also shed light on the processes of intellectual discovery and creativity.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.