May 29, 2008
Vol. 27 No. 17

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    Zimmer, Becker will recommend medalists

    By William Harms
    News Office

    President Zimmer (left) and Gary Becker (right)

    President Zimmer and Gary Becker, University Professor in Economics and the Graduate School of Business, have been named to the committee that recommends individuals to receive the National Medal of Science, the White House has announced.

    The National Medal of Science honors individuals for pioneering scientific research that enhances an understanding of the world and leads to innovations and technologies that give the United States its global economic edge. The honor is given for research in a range of fields, including physical, biological, mathematical, social, behavioral and engineering sciences. The National Science Foundation administers the award, which Congress established in 1959.

    A 2000 National Medal of Science recipient, Becker is a pioneer in applying the economic theory to show how individual and family decisions are made.

    In 2007, Becker received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

    Becker, who received the 1992 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, has continued to do important new work on how economic decisions influence people’s lives.

    His 1957 book (his doctoral dissertation), The Economics of Discrimination, combined economic analysis with a study of prejudice against minorities. In his 1964 book, Human Capital, he developed the idea that an investment in a person’s education and training was similar to business investments in new equipment. In his 1981 book, A Treatise on the Family, he expanded that work to a study of the interactions within families. His 1996 book, Accounting for Tastes, showed how preferences are formed.

    Becker received an A.B. from Princeton University in 1951 and his Ph.D. in Economics from Chicago in 1955. He was an Assistant Professor in Economics at Chicago from 1954 to 1957, and then taught at Columbia University from 1957 until 1969, when he returned to Chicago as a Visiting Professor. He was named Professor in Economics in 1970.

    Zimmer, who has been President since 2006, has had a distinguished career as a mathematician, in addition to his work as an administrator. Before returning to the University as President, he served as Provost at Brown University, a position he had held since 2002.

    Prior to his position at Brown, Zimmer was a Chicago faculty member and administrator for more than two decades. Zimmer’s research specialty is in the mathematical fields of geometry, particularly ergodic theory, Lie groups and differential geometry. As a University administrator, he served as Chairman of the Mathematics Department, Deputy Provost, and Vice President for Research and for Argonne National Laboratory.

    Zimmer is the author of two books, Ergodic Theory and Semisimple Groups (1984) and Essential Results of Functional Analysis (1990), and more than 80 mathematical research articles. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He served on the Board of Mathematical Sciences of the National Research Council from 1992 to 1995, and was on the council’s executive committee from 1993 to 1995.

    He earned his A.B., summa cum laude, from Brandeis University in 1968 and a Ph.D. in mathematics from Harvard University in 1975. He joined the Chicago faculty as an L.E. Dickson Instructor in Mathematics in 1977 and held the position of Max Mason Distinguished Service Professor in Mathematics from 1996 to 2002.