Professor Elizabeth Blackburn – Australian or American?

Its a case of much ado about nationality. According to Andrew Darby in The Age, joint Nobel Prize winner Professor Elizabeth Blackburn is unequivocally Australian. On the flip side of the coin, the Chinese state media have Blackburn down as a bonafide American, as does United Press International, although the latter admits Blackburn holds dual citizenship. Bernard Lane in the The Australian elects to start off on the right foot by noting that Blackburn is an Australian expatriate.

I don’t want to be a killjoy, but let’s celebrate all three of the Nobel winners (including Carol Greider and Jack Szostak) for medicine this year, regardless of nationality. Is there any reason why we can’t all tell it like it is – namely that Professor Blackburn’s recent residential history suggests that while she still might call Australia home, she calls the United States home first?

Paul Krugman wins Nobel Prize

It has been announced this evening that Economics Professor and New York Times journalist (but is that the right order?) Paul Krugman has won the Nobel Prize in Economics. There is some good background information on Krugman and the specific aspects of his work that won the prize at the Nobel Foundation site here.


The Nobel Museum in Stockholm

Of particular interest is this succinct scientific background paper [PDF], which gives a great overview of Krugman’s contributions to trade theory for all of us lay-economists. The introductory paragraphs excerpted below paint a good high-level picture of trade theory prior to the contributions of Krugman and his likeminded colleagues in the field: 

As of the mid-1970s, trade theory was based on the notion of comparative advantage. Countries were assumed to trade with each other because of differences in some respect – either in terms of technology, as assumed by David Ricardo in the early 19th century, or in terms of factor endowments, according to the Heckscher-Ohlin theory developed in the 1920s. The latter was exposited by Bertil Ohlin in his 1933 monograph Interregional and International Trade; Ohlin was awarded the 1977 Economics Prize for his contributions to trade theory.

These theories provided good explanations of the trade patterns in the first half of the 20th century. But as many researchers began to observe, comparative advantage seemed less relevant in the modern world. Today, most trade takes place between countries with similar technologies and similar factor proportions; quite similar goods are often both exported and imported by the same country. At least among the richer countries, intra-industry trade – whereby, for instance, a country both exports and imports textiles – came to dominate relative to inter-industry trade – whereby, for instance, a country exports textiles and imports agricultural products.

I recommend having a full read of the PDF – interesting stuff. Lord knows in today’s sport and entertainment-obsessed world, we do not honour the people who achieve great academic success nearly enough.


Stockholm by night.