“Paul, it’s Bob. You won the Nobel Prize ”

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Paul R. Milgrom and Robert B. Wilson won the Nobel Prize in economics, but at the time of the announcement, the first named was sleeping soundly.



The Nobel Prize in Economics was awarded Monday in Stockholm (Sweden) to the Americans Paul Milgrom and Robert Wilson, two experts in “perfect” auctions. Their innovative work was used in particular for the allocation of telecom frequencies.

At the time of the announcement, it was 2:15 am in the United States and Paul Milgrom was sleeping soundly at home. He learned the big news from his colleague. Stanford University has shared a video, recorded by Milgrom’s home CCTV camera, showing this scene to say the least unusual.

“Not the right number”

“The Nobel committee could not reach Paul Milgrom to share the news of his victory, so his winning colleague and neighbor Robert Wilson knocked on his door in the middle of the night,” the university said on Twitter. “Paul, it’s Bob Wilson. You won the Nobel Prize ”, explains Robert over the intercom:“ They can’t reach you, they don’t have the right number ”.

Spicy detail, when Robert Wilson rang the doorbell of Paul Milgrom, the sleeping winner’s wife was in Stockholm to receive the award. She received a notification from her home video surveillance camera on her phone. She was able to watch her husband wake up live and hear the big news.

In his work started in the late 1960s, Robert Wilson, 83, showed among other things that rational participants in an auction tended to bid less than the optimal situation, for fear of overpaying, stressed the jury.

Older laureates

Asked at a press conference shortly after the announcement of the award, he was delighted with the “very good news” and said he had never taken part in an auction. “My wife points out to me that we have ski boots bought on eBay, I guess it was an auction,” he laughed.

Paul Milgrom, 72 years old – of which Mr. Wilson was the thesis supervisor – formulated in the 1980s a more general theory of auctions. This shows in particular that an auction generates higher prices when the buyers obtain information on the offers planned by the other bidders during the auction, according to the Nobel jury.

Milgrom and Wilson will share a check for ten million Swedish kronor, approximately one million francs. Over the past 20 years, three-quarters of the economics award winners have been Americans over 55, as this year. The average age of the winners is also over 65, the highest among the six awards.


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