© The Nobel Foundation
Harry M. Markowitz

American Jewish Recipients of the Nobel Prize

Harry M. Markowitz: Nobel Prize
in Economics Recipient-1990

by Seymour “Sy” Brody

Harry M. Markowitz was a Jewish recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics, 1990, which he shared with Merton H. Miller and William F. Sharpe for their pioneering work in the theory of economics.

He was born on August 24, 1927, in Chicago, Illinois. He was the only child of Mildred and Morris Markowitz, who had a grocery store. He grew up during the great depression and he didn’t feel it as he had enough food and he had his own room.

Markowitz was a product of the Chicago public school system. In high school, he began to read the popular accounts of physics and astronomy and he began to read the original the works of serious philosophers.

He enrolled in the University of Chicago’s two year Bachelor of Arts program. He found that all of his subjects were interesting and challenging. After he received his Bachelor of Arts degree, he decided to stay in the University of Chicago for his M.A. in economics.

He was invited to become one of the student members of the Cowles Commission for Research in Economics. This commission was small but over the years, it produced a large number of Nobel Prize recipients.

When he started work on his thesis, it was time to decide on a topic. It was suggested that he apply mathematical methods to the stock market. He received his Ph.D. in 1955. He worked for the Rand Corporation. It was here that he met other people, who sparked his curiosity and from whom he learned many things.

In 1952, he wrote an article, “Portfolio Selection.” Since then, he always focused on the mathematical or computer techniques to practical problems.

Markowitz was awarded the Von Neumann Prize in Operations Research Theory by the Operations Research Society of America, in 1989.

He received the Nobel Prize when he was a professor at Baruch College of the City University of New York. He is on the advisory panel of Robert D. Arnott’s Pasedena, California, based investment firm, Research Affiliates.

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