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Scene at MIT: New Nobel laureate

MIT Professor Bengt Holmström speaks with reporters after a press conference describing his newly-minted status as a Nobel laureate.
MIT Professor Bengt Holmström speaks with reporters after a press conference describing his newly-minted status as a Nobel laureate.
Photo: Bryce Vickmark

On Monday, Oct. 10, Bengt Holmström, the Paul A. Samuelson Professor of Economics, was named a co-winner of the 2016 Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, for his work on contract theory. After receiving the early-morning call from Sweden, Holmström — who shares the award with Harvard University professor and former MIT colleage Oliver Hart — prepared to receive a flood of inquiries and congratulations from around the world. At 11 a.m. EDT, MIT held a press conference in his honor in Building E52, where he garnered a standing ovation from a sea of journalists, photographers, and MIT faculty, staff, and students.

"It's very kind of you to come here on a holiday, and sorry that I disturbed it," Holmström said with a smile. "I'm still dazed. ... It's not that one doesn't think about these possibilities because people, especially in Cambridge, talk so much about them. But one doesn't really expect it — at least, that's true for me. I'm still wondering whether I will wake up or whether this is the real thing, but you look great and real, so it must be! ... I'm of course very happy, very grateful, and, as I said, overwhelmed ... and lucky. There's just a great deal of luck already because there are lots of deserving people. But also for being in the right place at the right time."

MIT President L. Rafael Reif added the following remarks: "When someone wins a Nobel Prize, the rest of us tend to place that person on a pedestal, far above the level of normal human achievement. So I'd like the world to understand and to know that MIT's latest Nobel laureate is not only an extraordinary economic thinker; Bengt Holmström is also an outstanding citizen of MIT and a delightful human being."

The full press conference can be viewed on MIT's webcast archive.

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Press Mentions


NPR’s Steve Inskeep notes that in a 2010 episode of “The Simpsons” Milhouse van Houten predicts that Prof. Bengt Holmström will win a Nobel Prize in economics. Inskeep jokes that Milhouse was a visionary, who “knew way before the rest of the world that MIT's Bengt Holmström had genius in him.”

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