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Economist Diamond wins Killian Award

Peter Diamond
Peter Diamond

Institute Professor Peter A. Diamond, known for his work in applied economic theory and his analysis of the Social Security system, has been named winner of the James R. Killian Jr. Faculty Achievement Award for 2003-04.

"I know that the economists in my department think well of me, but to have this award come from the whole Institute is a tremendous honor," said Diamond, who was surprised when the announcement was made at the May 21 faculty meeting.

"They got me there by a subterfuge of meeting with the provost," said Diamond, who said he accompanied Dean Philip Khoury to the provost's office for a meeting, then was shunted to the faculty meeting instead. "I'm greatly pleased and honored by the award, and promise to work hard at trying to deliver a lecture as good as the ones I've heard."

Established in 1971 as a tribute to MIT's 10th president, the Killian Award recognizes extraordinary professional accomplishment by an MIT faculty member, who is asked to deliver a lecture in the spring term.

In its commendation, the 2003-04 Killian Award Committee, chaired by Professor Leon Glicksman, wrote: "Peter's academic work singles him out as one of the most distinguished economists of his time. He is almost unique among currently active researchers in having made important contributions in both macroeconomics and microeconomics and in having done both theoretical and data-oriented research.

"Peter has played a vital role in the advance of applied economic theory in the last four decades. He is a preeminent economic modeler, capable of distilling a problem to its essence and producing a simple framework that generates enormous insight. He has demonstrated this skill in his work on several different topics, in each case writing a seminal paper that has stimulated a great body of subsequent work."

Diamond is known among the general public for his analysis of U.S. Social Security policy and his work as an advisor to the Advisory Council on Social Security in the late 1980s and 1990s.

He is president of the American Economic Association and has served as president of the Econometric Society. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

He earned the B.A. in mathematics from Yale University in 1960 and the Ph.D. in economics from MIT in 1963. He was an assistant professor at the University of California at Berkeley from 1964-65 and an acting associate professor there before joining the MIT faculty as an associate professor in 1966. Diamond was promoted to full professor in 1970, served as head of the Department of Economics in 1985-86 and was named an Institute Professor in 1997.

He has written, co-written or edited eight books, 116 research papers and 12 working papers.

"He is widely regarded as a conscientious, level-headed and dedicated servant of the Institute," Glicksman said in announcing the award. "Peter Diamond is a central contributor to the intellectual life of the MIT economics department, to the scholarly community at MIT and to the national community of insightful policy analysts."

Other members of the award committee are professors Bruno Coppi, John Dower, Arnoldo Hax and Robert Langer.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on June 4, 2003.

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