Thomas Crombie Schelling Biography - Nobel Prize Winner (2005)


Thomas Crombie Schelling (born 14 April 1921) is an American economist and professor of foreign affairs, national security, nuclear strategy, and arms control at the University of Maryland, College Park School of Public Policy. He was awarded the 2005 Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel (shared with Robert Aumann) for "having enhanced our understanding of conflict and cooperation through game-theory analysis."

Schelling received his bachelor's degree in economics from the University of California, Berkeley in 1944. He received his PhD in economics from Harvard University in 1951.

Schelling's most famous book, The Strategy of Conflict (1960), has pioneered the study of bargaining and strategic behavior and is considered one of the hundred books that have been most influential in the West since 1945. In this book he introduced the concept of the focal point, now commonly called the Schelling point.

Schelling's economic theories about war were extended in Arms and Influence (1966).

In 1971, he published a widely cited article dealing with racial dynamics called "Dynamic Models of Segregation". In this paper he showed that a small preference for one's neighbors to be of the same color could lead to total segregation. He used coins on graph paper to demonstrate his theory by placing pennies and nickels in different patterns on the "board" and then moving them one by one if they were in an "unhappy" situation. The positive feedback cycle of segregation - prejudice - in-group preference can be found in most human populations, with great variation in what are regarded as meaningful differences -- gender, age, race, ethnicity, language, sexual preference, religion, etc. Once a cycle of separation-prejudice-discrimination-separation has begun, it has a self-sustaining momentum.

Schelling has been involved in the global warming debate since chairing a commission for President Carter in 1980. He believes climate change poses a serious threat to developing nations, but that the threat to the United States has been exaggerated. Drawing on his experience with the post-war Marshall Plan, he has argued that addressing global warming is a bargaining problem: if the world is able to reduce emissions, poor countries will receive most of the benefits but rich countries will bear most of the costs.

Dr. Schelling previously taught for twenty years at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, where he was the Lucius N. Littauer Professor of Political Economy, as well as conducted research at IIASA, in Laxenburg, Austria between 1994 and 1999.

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