Oct. 14, 1993
Vol. 13, No. 4

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    Fogel wins Nobel prize

    Robert Fogel, the Charles R. Walgreen Professor in the Graduate School of Business, has been awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science for his application of economics and statistics to the analysis of history. He shares the prize with Douglas North of Washington University.

    Fogel's Nobel is the fourth in a row to be awarded to a University of Chicago faculty member. It is thought to be the first time in the 92-year history of the Nobel prizes that researchers from any one institution have been honored with the prize in four consecutive years. The Chicago Nobelists in the past three years, all of whom were awarded the prize in economics, are Gary Becker, University Professor in Economics; Ronald Coase, Senior Fellow and the Clifton R. Musser Professor Emeritus in the Law School; and Merton Miller, the Robert R. McCormick Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in the Graduate School of Business.

    Fogel and North were cited "for having renewed research in economic history by applying economic theory and quantitative methods in order to explain economic and institutional change."

    "We are enormously proud of Robert Fogel. His work has changed the face of economic history," said President Hugo F. Sonnenschein. "His uncompromisingly rigorous research, once unpopular and thought to be out of the mainstream, has led to a new understanding of our history and the social factors that determined it. Chicago has provided remarkably fertile ground for the birth of bold ideas and bold techniques.

    "This fourth consecutive Nobel prize -- a first in higher education -- is a truly grand endorsement of our University, its Graduate School of Business, Department of Economics and Law School. And most of all it pays tribute to an extraordinary scholar."

    David Galenson, Professor in Economics, said, "Bob Fogel is a major figure, not only in economics but in the social sciences in general. He has pioneered the application of economic theory to major historical problems. His influence on the profession has been enormous, not only because of his research but also because of the many students he has trained. Bob's work will continue to influence the course of research in economic history for many generations."

    Fogel is the author or co-author of numerous articles and 18 books, including the two-volume "Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Negro Slavery" (1974), the four-volume "Without Consent or Contract: The Rise and Fall of American Slavery" (1989-92), and two works in progress, "A Guide to Business Ethics in the 1990s" and "The Escape From Hunger and Early Death: Europe, America and the Third World: 1750-2100."

    "Time on the Cross" pioneered statistical methods to analyze the way the slave system in America operated. Fogel said the conclusion of the work, which he said was "startling and upsetting" when it appeared in 1974, was that slavery was economically more efficient than free agriculture.

    "Without Consent or Contract" was the culmination of a 23-year project involving 30 senior researchers. In it, Fogel expanded his research to include other issues, including the demographics of the slaves themselves, the conditions of slave life and the economics and politics of the struggle to end slavery.

    "Our conclusion was that slavery was ended not because it was inefficient, but because it was morally repugnant," Fogel said. "The marketplace could not have ended slavery, because slavery was an efficient and profitable system. Slavery ended only through political intervention based on the evolving American ethic against slavery, which itself grew primarily out of the convictions of religious radicals who did not believe any person should hold such dominion over another."

    Fogel has been a faculty member at Chicago for 23 years, first from 1964 until 1975, and then, after a period at Harvard, from 1981 through the present. In addition to his appointment in the GSB, Fogel is Professor in Economics and the Committee on Social Thought, and he is Director of the University's Center for Population Economics. Fogel's predecessor in the Walgreen professorship was George Stigler, who won the Nobel prize in 1982, and whom Fogel called "one of my principal teachers in economics." Stigler died in 1991.

    Fogel is currently directing a five-year interdisciplinary study that will examine the life profiles of 40,000 Civil War veterans, whose accurate medical records represent a rare treasure-trove of socioeconomic and medical information about thousands of men born between 1822 and 1845, from the time they enlisted until the last one died in 1954. The study's intent is to measure the effect of socioeconomic and biomedical factors during childhood and early adulthood on the development of specific diseases at middle and late ages, on labor-force participation at later ages, and on age at the time of death. It involves senior researchers from nine other institutions and is designed to provide clues about the dramatic decreases since 1968 in mortality rates at ages above 65, and particularly above 85.

    "We still haven't escaped from the effects of hunger and early mortality even in the rich countries," Fogel explained. "We are still dying prematurely. Over the next two generations, life expectancies should increase by another 10 years."

    Fogel received his A.B. from Cornell in 1948, his A.M. from Columbia in 1960, and his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins in 1963. He came to the University in 1963 as a Ford Foundation Visiting Research Professor and was named an Associate Professor in 1964.

    First among those Fogel thanked this morning was his wife of 44 years, Enid. "Her support and help have been indispensable in everything I have done," he said. Enid Fogel was Associate Dean of Students in the Graduate School of Business from 1981 to 1988, when she retired. The Fogels live in Hyde Park and have two sons: Michael, who also lives in Hyde Park, and Steven, who lives in Quincy, Mass.