Douglass C. North


Douglass C. North

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Douglass C. North
The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 1993

Born: 5 November 1920, Cambridge, MA, USA

Died: 23 November 2015, Benzonia, MI, USA

Affiliation at the time of the award: Washington University, St. Louis, MO, USA

Prize motivation: “for having renewed research in economic history by applying economic theory and quantitative methods in order to explain economic and institutional change”

Prize share: 1/2


Douglass North was born in Cambridge, MA, USA. His family moved a number of times in his childhood, and North went to school in the US, Canada and Europe. He claimed to have been a mediocre student; however he finished his Ph.D. studies in 1952 at the University of California. North served as a navigator during WWII. He was a keen photographer and worked with Dorothea Lange in the 1940s.


Douglass North’s work was primarily theoretical. He argued that technical innovations alone are insufficient to propel economic development. In order for a market economy to flourish, certain legal and social institutions must be in place. His ideas were expressed in a number of books; his groundbreaking work being The Economic Growth of the United States 1790–1860, published in 1961.

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