An Introduction to Their Careers and Main Published Works
Chapter 28: THE 1996 NOBEL MEMORIAL LAUREATES JAMES MIRRLEES AND WILLIAM VICKERY
THE 1996 NOBEL MEMORIAL LAUREATES JAMES MIRRLEES AND WILLIAM VICKREY JAMES MIRRLEES James A. Mirrlees (b. 1936) © The Nobel Foundation James Mirrlees was born in 1936 in Minnigaff, a small village near Newton Stewart in the southwest of Scotland. As a child he was studious and his parents encouraged him to be academically competitive. Mirrlees found he had a vocation for mathematics and through a diet of self-development, and with the help of his teachers, he excelled to the extent that he was entered for a Cambridge University scholarship. Unfortunately, at the time of the examination he was languishing in hospital with a serious illness and consequently he began his undergraduate career at Edinburgh University rather than Cambridge (Nobel Foundation, 2004). He was awarded an MA in mathematics and natural philosophy by Edinburgh in 1957. Having by now taken and been successful in the Cambridge scholarship examination he had missed, Mirrlees left Scotland to enrol on a second undergraduate degree. At Cambridge he passed Parts II and III of the Mathematical Tripos in 1957 and 1958, respectively; his experience at Edinburgh meant that Part I was waived. It was at this point that Mirrlees decided that he wanted to do economics, despite having the option to go on to do research in mathematics. Why economics? ‘because I kept discussing it with economist friends, and they didn’t make sense to me; and because poverty in what were then called the underdeveloped countries, seemed to me what 244 JAMES MIRRLEES really mattered...
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