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Born on this day
Douglass Cecil North
Douglass Cecil North is an American economistan a Nobel Prize winner.
45th week in year
5 November 2020

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Douglass Cecil North5.11.1920

Wikipedia (25 Oct 2013, 14:28)

Douglass Cecil North (born November 5, 1920) is an American economist known for his work in economic history. He is the co-recipient (with Robert William Fogel) of the 1993 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. In the words of the Nobel Committee, North and Fogel were awarded the prize "for having renewed research in economic history by applying economic theory and quantitative methods in order to explain economic and institutional change."


Douglass North was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on November 5, 1920. He moved several times as a child due to his father's work at MetLife, living in Cambridge, Ottawa, Lausanne, New York City and Wallingford.

A conscientious objector in World War II, North became a navigator in the Merchant Marine, traveling between San Francisco and Australia. During this time, he read economics and picked up his hobby of photography. He taught navigation at the Maritime Service Officers' School in Alameda during the last year of the war, and struggled with the decision of whether to become a photographer or an economist.


North was educated at Ashbury College in Ottawa, Ontario and The Choate School in Wallingford, Connecticut. He was accepted at Harvard at the same time that his father became the head of MetLife on the west coast, so North opted to go to University of California, Berkeley. In 1942, he graduated with a B.A. in General Curriculum-Humanities. Although his grades amounted to slightly better than a "C" average, he managed to complete a triple major in political science, philosophy and economics.

North decided to return to school at Berkeley to pursue a PhD in economics, not history as many of his followers believe he did. He finished his studies in 1952 and began work as an assistant professor at the University of Washington.


In 1960 North became co-editor of the Journal of Economic History, popularizing Cliometrics (New Economic History). In 1960-1983 he was Professor of Economics at the University of Washington. He then joined the faculty of Washington University in Saint Louis in 1983 as the Henry R. Luce Professor of Law and Liberty in the Department of Economics, and served as director of the Center for Political Economy from 1984 to 1990. North held the position of Pitt Professor of American History and Institutions at Cambridge University in 1981. In 1991, he became the first economic historian to win the John R. Commons Award, which was established by the International Honors Society for Economics in 1965.

North has served as an expert for the Copenhagen Consensus and as an advisor to governments around the world. He is currently engaged in research (with John J. Wallis of the University of Maryland, College Park and Barry Weingast of Stanford University) on how countries emerge from what they call "the natural state" and into long-run economic growth. He is a trustee of the Economists for Peace and Security and a special adviser to the non-profit organization Vipani.

A collection of North's papers is housed at the Rubenstein Library at Duke University.

North is currently teaching at Washington University in St. Louis and is the Bartlett Burnap Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

(photo source

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