Tjalling Koopmans' Nobel Prize medal gifted to Cowles


The Cowles Foundation was honored to receive Tjalling Koopmans’ Nobel Prize medal by the Frankel family durning an intimate ceremony held at 28 Hillhouse Ave. on May 24.

During the ceremony, Ann Frankel (Tjalling’s daughter) spoke of her father, her father’s work, and the medal before handing it over to former Cowles Director, Al Klevorick, who accepted the medal on behalf of the Cowles Foundtion.

“In my view, Tjalling Koopmans embodied, in person and in his work, the Cowles Foundation,” said Klevorick.  “It is a great honor for us to have the medal and be able to display it.”

To mark the occasion, Yale Economics Professors and  Nobel laureates William Nordhaus and Robert Shiller were on hand to speak of Koopmans’ influence on their careers. 

Professor Robert Shiller spoke of Koopmans’ influence in the use of theory in the field of economics, not just data aspects.  Shiller went on to explain how the Cowles Foundation medal and its motto changed when the foundation moved to Yale, and how the motto was influced by Koopmans, as well as the Foundation’s move to Yale.  “The motto is, ‘Theory and Measurement,’ which is exactly a transposition of [Koopmans’] 1947 paper,” said Shiller. 

“I think the spirit of [Koopmans’] research lives on at Cowles,” said Shiller. ”Tjalling was very import in forming the ethos and method that lives on today in the Cowles Foundation, and more broadly, the Yale community.”

Professor William Nordhaus spoke of meeting Tjalling Koopmans for the first time during a job interview, and how he was impressed with Koopmans’ wide range of interests. He said it was Koopmans’ influce of mathematical programming that put him on the environmental-economics track. Koopmans suggested that Nordhaus use programming models to better understand the way systems work rather than econometrics for estrucural analysis to ultimately see the impacts of ecomomics on climate change.

To show Koopmans’ forethought on how climate change would have an impact for future generations, Professor Nordhaus quoted from a toast given by Koopmans at the 1975 economics Nobel banquet dinner.  One sentence from Koopmans’ toast said, “We need to seek a balance between enegy production, food production, and anticipated other global effects and interregional inequities to be compensated for.” 

Nordhaus said, “I thought that was really extrordinary; so far ahead of everyone else. So far ahead of his time.”

“That was what was so special about working with Challing,” said Nordhaus. He had fundemental and deep insights into so many areas. It lives with me and my spirt in a way I think about economics, and a way I think about society and social issues.”

Ann Frankel was joined by her husband Joseph Frankel, her son Martin Unsel-Frankel, and Martin’s wife, Gün Ünsal. Joseph Frankel also reminesed of Koopmans with an anctedote as a “young suitor” to Ann. 

The donation is especially meaningful, as Tjalling Koopmans was instrumental in moving the Cowles Foundation (then the Cowles Commission) from the University of Chicago to Yale in 1954. He was a life-long staff member and served two terms as Director of Cowles in the 1960s. 

Tjalling Koopmans (jointly with Leonid Kantorovich) was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1975 for his contributions to the field of resource allocation, specifically the theory of optimal use of resources.

Nordhaus: “I think it is and will be an inspiration for faculty and students who come here to see it.”

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