© The Nobel Foundation
Robert C. Merton

American Jewish Recipients of the Nobel Prize

Robert C. Merton: Nobel Prize
in Economics Recipient-1997

by Seymour “Sy” Brody

Robert C. Merton was an American Jewish recipient of the Nobel Prize of Economics in 1997, which he shared with Myron S. Scholes for a new method to determine the value of derivatives.

He was born on July 31, 1944, in New York City, New York. He grew up with his two sisters, Stephanie and Vanessa, in Hastings-on-Hudson, a small village outside of New York City. His father, Robert K. Merton, the son of immigrant parents, was a professor of sociology at Columbia University who was awarded the National Medal of Science.

He went to the local public school system where he was able to take mathematics through calculus and five years of science. He was on the varsity high school football team and ran in track.

One week before his seventeenth birthday, he had a blind date with June Rose, a television actress on network soap operas, a model and a regular on the Dick Clark show. He married her seven years later and they had three children.

Merton graduated from Columbia University with a B.S. degree in engineering and mathematics, in 1966. He then went to the California Institute of Technology for mathematics, 1966-1967. He decided to leave and to direct his studies to economics. He received a full fellowship from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In 1970, Merton received his Ph.D. in Economics.

He had studied under Nobel Prize Laureate Paul Samuelson , who helped him to introduce stochastic calculus into financial economics. This process allowed the behavior of prices to be described in the precise language of probability.

Merton is currently a professor at Harvard Business School. He also holds the rank of University Professor, which is the highest professional rank at Harvard University.

Robert C. Merton has received many awards:
● Faculty Scholar Award, 1964
● Salgo-Noren Award for Excellence in Teaching, MIT, 1971-1972
● Graduate Student Council Teaching Award, MIT, 1977-1978
● Leo Melamed Prize, University of Chicago, 1983
● Roger Murray Prize Competition, Institute for Quantitative Research in Finance, 1985
● Roger Murray Prize Competition, Institute for Quantitative Research in Finance-1986
● Distinguished Scholar Award, Eastern Finance Association, 1989
● International INA-Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei Prize, National Academy of Lincei, Rome, Italy, 1993
● FORCE Award for Financial Innovation, Fuqua School of Business, Duke University, 1993
● Financial Engineer of the Year Award, International Association of Financial Engineers, 1993
● Nobel Prize in Economics, 1997
● “Heroes Among Us,” Boston Celtics, Boston Massachusetts, 1997
● Inducted, Derivatives Hall of Fame, Derivatives Strategy Magazine, 1998
● Michael I. Pupin Medal for Service to the Nation, Columbia University, 1998
● Distinguished Alumni Award, California Institute of Technology, 1999
● Mathematical Finance Day Lifetime Achievement Award, Boston University, 1999
● Risk Hall of Fame, Risk Magazine, 2002
● Lifetime Achievement Award, Risk Magazine, 2003
● Nicholas Molodovsky Award, CFA Institute, 2003
● Graham and Dodd Award for the Best Perspectives Article in 2003, Financial Analyst Journal, 2004
● Establishment of the Robert C. Merton (1970) Professorship in Economics, MIT, 2005
● PRMIA Higher Standard Award, Professional Risk Managers’ International Association, 2006

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