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Lloyd Shapley: UCLA's Newest Nobel Laureate


By Staff of the UCLA Newsroom

Published Oct 15, 2012 3:42 PM

The emeritus professor shares the award with a Harvard economist for the theory of stable allocations and the practice of market design.


Lloyd S. Shapley

Lloyd S. Shapley, a professor emeritus of economics and mathematics at UCLA, has been awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. He shares the award with Harvard University economist Alvin E. Roth.

Shapley and Roth were honored "for the theory of stable allocations and the practice of market design," the Nobel committee announced this morning.

Shapley, 89, who joined the UCLA faculty in 1981, studies non-cooperative market models, political games, cost allocation and organization theory.

Shapley and Roth, working independently of one another, addressed the central economic problem of how to match different agents as efficiently as possible to improve the performance of markets—for example, how to match new doctors with hospitals, prospective students with schools, or patients needing organ transplants with donors.

Shapley's sons, Peter and Christopher Shapley, released the following statement:

"We are delighted that after decades of hard work and numerous significant contributions to the field of game theory, our father, Lloyd Shapley, has been honored with the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. We know he is tremendously thankful that his life's work is being recognized with such a prestigious award and grateful for the many congratulations expressed by colleagues and friends.

"Our father spent many years teaching and researching at UCLA, retiring more than 10 years ago. Now 89, his memory is fading and his communication skills are deteriorating. We ask that journalists respect his privacy and do not attempt to contact him."

Working with mathematician and economist David Gale in the early 1960s, Shapley developed the fundamental theory that Roth ultimately confirmed and applied to a variety of situations, said Roger Farmer, chair of the UCLA Department of Economics.

In their landmark 1962 paper, "College admissions and the stability of marriage," Shapley and Gale demonstrated how to match two groups of people—for example, men and women in a "marriage market"—in a way that is stable.

"Professor Roth took the theoretical contribution of Gale and Shapley and recognized its relevance to a large number of real-world situations," Farmer said. "For example, the allocation of new doctors to medical schools was dramatically improved through the use of a clearinghouse system that is equivalent to the theoretical mechanism described by Gale and Shapley."

"Professor Shapley's Nobel-winning work relates to the discovery of an algorithm to solve the 'stable marriage problem,' a mathematical problem about finding an optimal pairing between two groups of equal size," said Dimitri Shlyakhtenko, chair of the UCLA Department of Mathematics. "There should be no man and woman who would rather be married to each other than to their current spouses. The solution to this problem by Shapley and Gale is the theoretical underpinning of many real-life applications to situations where an optimal match between supply and demand needs to be found.

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UCLA boasts many other Nobel Prize laureates:

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Alumna wins Nobel Prize

"My colleagues and I are absolutely delighted that Professor Shapley's distinguished research has been honored with a Nobel Prize and congratulate him on this joyous occasion. This wonderful news again confirms that UCLA is at the forefront of scientific and mathematical research."

UCLA professor emeritus takes the prize

Lloyd S. Shapley wins the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics.

Video by: Associated Press / Nobel

For more on Shapley's research, visit the Nobel Prize site.

Shapley is the sixth UCLA faculty member to be named a Nobel laureate, joining Willard Libby (chemistry, 1960), Julian Schwinger (physics, 1965), Donald Cram (chemistry, 1987), Paul Boyer (chemistry, 1997) and Louis Ignarro (physiology or medicine, 1998).

The economics prize, officially known as the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, was created in 1968 by Sweden's central bank and was not part of the original group of awards established in the will of Alfred Nobel.