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Nemmers Awards in Economics, Mathematics Announced

Northwestern has announced that Paul R. Milgrom and Simon Donaldson are the recipients of the 2008 Nemmers Prizes in economics and mathematics.

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April 22, 2008
EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern University has announced that Paul R. Milgrom and Simon Donaldson are the recipients of the 2008 Nemmers Prizes in economics and mathematics, believed to be the largest monetary awards in the United States for outstanding achievements in those two disciplines.

Awarded to scholars who made major contributions to new knowledge or the development of significant new modes of analysis, each prize carries a $150,000 stipend.

Milgrom, the Shirley R. and Leonard W. Ely, Jr. Professor of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford University, has been awarded the Erwin Plein Nemmers Prize in Economics, recognized by the selection committee "for contributions dramatically expanding the understanding of the role of information and incentives in a variety of settings, including auctions, the theory of the firm, and oligopolistic markets."

Donaldson, Royal Society Research Professor at Imperial College, London, has been awarded the Frederic Esser Nemmers Prize in Mathematics for his "groundbreaking work in four-dimensional topology, symplectic geometry and gauge theory, and for his remarkable use of ideas from physics to advance pure mathematics."

In connection with their awards, Milgrom and Donaldson are scheduled to deliver public lectures and participate in other scholarly activities at Northwestern during the 2008-09 and 2009-10 academic years.

"These scholars are widely respected among their peers, and we are proud once again to recognize such exceptional work with the Nemmers Prizes," said Northwestern University Provost Daniel Linzer. "Since the prizes were first awarded in 1994, they have become recognized as the leading awards in their fields. It is significant that three of the seven scholars awarded the Nemmers Prizes in Economics went on to receive the Nobel Prize in that field." By terms of the gift which created the prizes, previous winners of Nobel awards are ineligible to receive a Nemmers Prize.

"Milgrom's path-breaking work has developed and popularized new tools for the analysis of asymmetric information and strategic interaction and, most significantly, has shown the usefulness of those tools for the analysis of applied problems," said Charles Manski, professor and chair of economics at Northwestern. Milgrom's work on auctions helped lay the groundwork for one of the most fruitful research areas in microeconomics over the last 30 years. His work on the theory of the firm has been equally influential. Milgrom has also made important contributions to the study of how asymmetric information can affect firm behavior in oligopolistic markets.

Milgrom received his B.A. from the University of Michigan and Ph.D. from Stanford University. He has served on the faculty at Northwestern as well as Yale University. Among his honors, Milgrom is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the National Academy of Sciences. He has twice been a Fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and has received a Guggenheim Fellowship. He currently serves on the council of the Econometric Society, and has served previously as co-editor of the American Economic Review.

Donaldson received his B.A at Cambridge University and his D.Phil. from Oxford University. In 1986, only three years after completion of his doctorate, he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society. That same year he received the Fields Medal, widely recognized as the most prestigious honor for a mathematician under the age of 40. He was awarded the Royal Medal of the Royal Society in 1992, the Crafoord Prize in 1994, and the King Faisal Prize in 2006. In 2000 he was elected a foreign associate of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Donaldson's breakthrough work developed new techniques in the geometry of four-manifolds and the study of their smooth structures," said John Franks, professor and chair of mathematics at Northwestern. "His methods," Franks continued, "have been described as extremely subtle, using difficult nonlinear partial differential equations. Using instantons, solutions to the equations of Yang-Mills gauge theory, he gained important insight into the structure of closed four-manifolds. Gauge theory techniques also enabled him to show the existence of four-manifolds with no smooth structure and others with infinitely many. His work has provided the seminal steps for the work of others in study of four-manifolds." More recently, Donaldson has made fundamental contributions to the understanding of symplectic manifolds, the phase-spaces of classical mechanics, and he shows that a surprisingly large part of the theory of algebraic geometry extends to them.

His two books and more than 60 published papers are widely recognized for their originality as well as their elegance and clarity.

The Nemmers Prizes are made possible through bequests from the late Erwin E. Nemmers, a former member of the Northwestern University faculty, and his brother the late Frederic E. Nemmers, both of Milwaukee. The prizes are awarded every other year. Previous recipients have been Peter A. Diamond (1994), Thomas J. Sargent (1996), Robert J. Aumann (1998), Daniel L. McFadden (2000), Edward C. Prescott (2002), Ariel Rubinstein (2004), and Lars Peter Hansen (2006) in economics and Yuri I. Manin (1994), Joseph B. Keller (1996), John H. Conway (1998), Edward Witten (2000), Yakov G. Sinai (2002), Mikhael Gromov (2004), and Robert P. Langlands (2006) in mathematics.

Erwin Esser Nemmers, who persuaded his brother to join him in making a substantial contribution to Northwestern, served as a member of the faculty of the Kellogg School of Management from 1957 until his retirement in 1986. Along with his brother, Frederic E. Nemmers, he was a principal in a Milwaukee-based, family-owned church music publishing house.

Their gifts, totaling $14 million, were designated by Erwin and Frederic Nemmers for two purposes: the establishment of four endowed professorships in the Kellogg School of Management and the establishment of the Nemmers Prizes.

Consistent with the terms of the Nemmers bequests, the Erwin Plein Nemmers Prize in Economics (named in honor of the Nemmers' father) and the Frederic Esser Nemmers Prize in Mathematics (named by Erwin in honor of his brother) are designed to recognize "work of lasting significance" in the respective disciplines.

A third award, the Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize in Musical Composition, was awarded for the first time in 2004-05. Like the economics and mathematics prizes, the music prize is awarded every other year, with a value of $100,000.