[Paleopsych] NYT: Gerard Debreu, 83, Dies; Won Nobel in Economics

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Gerard Debreu, 83, Dies; Won Nobel in Economics
New York Times, 5.1.6

Gerard Debreu, the winner of the 1983 Nobel in economic
sciences for his research on the balance of supply and
demand, died Friday in Paris.

Mr. Debreu, who was 83, died of natural causes, according
to a statement released yesterday by the University of
California, Berkeley, where he taught for nearly 30 years.
His residence was an assisted-living center in Paris, where
he moved about a year ago after suffering a stroke, his
son-in-law, Richard De Soto, said.

Mr. Debreu won the Nobel for his work on a mathematical
approach to one of the most basic economic problems: how
prices function to balance what producers supply with what
buyers want.

A slender 100-page book he wrote that was published in
1959, "Theory of Value: An Axiomatic Analysis of Economic
Equilibrium," is considered a classic of the field.

"He brought to economics a mathematical rigor that had not
been seen before," Prof. Robert Anderson said in the
university's statement yesterday.

In contrast to other winners in economics, Mr. Debreu
focused on basic research rather than applications of
economic theory.

"You would not get much of an economic policy discussion
out of him," Assar Lindbeck, chairman of the panel that
reviewed nominations for the Nobel committee, said when he
announced the award to Mr. Debreu 21 years ago. "He is the
kind of teacher who starts in the top left corner of the
blackboard, fills it with formulae and reaches the bottom
right corner at the end of the class."

Mr. Debreu's work had an impact on the work of many other
economists, said Kenneth Arrow, professor emeritus of
economics at Stanford who collaborated with Mr. Debreu in
the 1950's. Economists applied Mr. Debreu's theories to
problems like analyzing business cycles and measuring the
cost to the economy of inefficiencies like traffic
congestion, Mr. Arrow said.

Mr. Debreu was born on July 4, 1921, in Calais, France; he
became an American citizen in 1975. He received his
doctorate from the University of Paris in 1956. He broke
off his studies in mathematics in 1944 after D-Day, to
enlist in the French Army. He was an officer of the French
Legion of Honor and a commander of the French National
Order of Merit.

>From 1950 to 1960, Mr. Debreu was associated with the
Cowles Commission for Research in Economics at the
University of Chicago; he was later at Yale University,
serving as an associate professor. He worked at the Center
for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford
from 1960 to 1961. He joined the faculty at Berkeley in
1962, where he was a professor of economics and mathematics
until his retirement in 1991.

Mr. Debreu continued to lecture at Berkeley and elsewhere
after his retirement, Mr. De Soto said.

Mr. Debreu is survived by his wife, Francoise Debreu of
Walnut Creek, Calif.; and two daughters, Chantal De Soto of
Aptos, Calif., and Florence Tetrault of Vancouver, British
Columbia. A service at the columbarium of Père-Lachaise
Cemetery in Paris will be held tomorrow.


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