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Match-making nets economics Nobel for Americans
Awards » Duo makes supply and demand work when traditional methods fail.

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The son of renowned astronomer Harlow Shapley, who helped estimate the true size of the Milky Way galaxy, Shapely noted: "Now, I’m ahead of my father. He got other prizes. ... But he did not get a Nobel Prize."

Roth said he and his wife were asleep when the phone rang at 3:30 a.m.

At a glance

The Nobel Prize for Economics

Who won? » Alvin Roth of Harvard University and a visiting professor at Stanford University, and Lloyd Shapley, professor emeritus at UCLA.

For what? » The two were cited for “the theory of stable allocations and the practice of market design.”

Why does it matter? » Their research focused on the problem of matching different agents in a market — students with schools and human organs with transplant recipients — in situations where prices aren’t the deciding factor.

What did they say? » Roth: “I think this will make market design more visible.”

Shapley: “I consider myself a mathematician, and the award is for economics. I never in my life took a course in economics.”

Other Nobel Prize winners for 2012

Physiology or medicine » Briton Sir John Gurdon and Japan’s Shinya Yamanaka for their discovery that mature cells can be reprogrammed into immature cells, a finding that revolutionized understanding of how cells and organisms develop.

Physics » Serge Haroche of France and David Wineland of the U.S. “for ground-breaking experimental methods” that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems.

Chemistry » Americans Robert Lefkowitz and Brian Kobilka for studies of proteins that let body cells respond to signals from the outside, helping scientists develop better drugs.

Literature » Mo Yan of China for his works that merge folk tales, history and contemporary works for vivid portraits of Chinese life.

Peace » The European Union for the organization’s contribution to building peace on a continent ravaged by war.

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"We missed the first call because we were asleep, but we had time to wake up and think that might be what it was," he said. "My wife is going to go out and get us some coffee, and maybe we’ll absorb it."

He said the award "casts a light on the work. It makes it more visible. And it’s an exciting area of economics, so that’s a good thing. ... We’re not macroeconomists who think about the whole economy. We think about particular markets and marketplaces and how to make them work better."

The Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences was the last of the 2012 Nobel awards to be announced.

It’s not technically a Nobel Prize: Unlike the five other awards, it wasn’t established in the will of Alfred Nobel, a Swedish industrialist who invented dynamite. The economics prize was created by the Swedish central bank in Nobel’s memory in 1968, and has been handed out with the other prizes ever since.

Americans have dominated the economics award: 15 of the last 17 winners have come from the United States.

The 2012 Nobel Prizes in medicine, physics chemistry and literature and the Nobel Peace Prize were announced last week. All awards will be handed out on Dec. 10, the anniversary of Nobel’s death in 1896.

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