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Northwestern Economist Awarded 2015 Balzan Prize

Joel Mokyr recognized for contributions to economic history

  • Prestigious prize recognizes emerging fields and innovative research
  • Mokyr researches economic history of Europe, roots of technological progress
  • Half of SF 750,000 ($770,000) prize must be allocated for research purposes

EVANSTON, Ill. ---  Northwestern University economist and historian Joel Mokyr has been awarded the 2015 International Balzan Prize for his groundbreaking work on the economic history of Europe and roots of technological change.

Mokyr, the Robert H. Strotz Professor of Arts and Sciences and professor of economics and history in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University since 1974, is one of three Americans to be awarded the prestigious prize.

Each prize winner is awarded approximately 750,000 Swiss Francs (approximately $770,000). Half of the prize money must be allocated for research purposes, preferably involving young scholars and researchers.

The Balzan prizewinners were announced Sept. 7 in Milan, Italy, by the chairman of the Balzan General Prize Committee, Salvatore Veca, together with the president of the Balzan Prize Foundation, Enrico Decleva, at the Corriere della Sera Foundation.

The subject areas of the Balzan prizes are either specific or interdisciplinary fields, in the humanities (literature, the moral sciences and the arts) and in the sciences (medicine and the physical, mathematical and natural sciences). To recognize emerging fields and give priority to innovative research, the subject areas vary each year.

Mokyr, who has appointments in Northwestern’s economics and history departments, will be honored during an award ceremony in Bern, Switzerland, Nov. 13.

“I feel a deep gratitude to two of Northwestern’s finest research departments, who in their different ways are both wholly committed to scholarship and learning,” said Mokyr about receiving the honor. “Without my outstanding colleagues and graduate students in economics and history, I would have never been able to do the work that is now being recognized.”

Mokyr works on the economic history of Europe, specializing in the period 1750 to 1914. He is the author of “The Lever of Riches,” “The Gifts of Athena,” “The Enlightened Economy,” and most recently “A Culture of Growth” -- all books that focus on changes in technology and economic growth.

He is concerned with understanding the economic and intellectual roots of technological progress and the growth of useful knowledge in European societies. His research also focuses on the impact that industrialization and economic progress have had on economic welfare.

Mokyr is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the Econometric Society. He has been the president of the Economic History Association and a co-editor of the Journal of Economic History. He was the 2006 winner of the biennial Heineken Award for History offered by the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences.

Mokyr is on several editorial boards of peer-reviewed journals, and editor in chief of the Princeton University Press series on Economic History of the Western World.

In addition to Mokyr, 2015 Balzan prize recipients include Hans Belting, Staatliche Hochschule fur Gestaltung, Karlsruhe (Germany) for history of European art (1300-1700); Francis Halzen, University of Wisconsin-Madison, for astroparticle physics including neutrino and gamma-ray observation; and David Karl, University of Hawaii, for oceanography.

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