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Gerard Debreu was born in Calais, France in 1921 and studied mathematics in his youth, graduating from the University of Paris in 1946. He was a member of the irreverent 'Bourbaki' group in France in the early postwar period, a set of young French mathematicians who set about reconstructing the logical foundations of mathematics, publishing all their works jointly under the name of a non-existing genius called 'Henri Bourbaki'. In 1948, he came to the USA on a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship and in 1950 he joined the Cowles Commission at the University of Chicago [see Marschak, J.]. He began to collaborate with Kenneth Arrow and together they published an epoch-making paper, 'Existence of an Equilibrium for a Competitive Economy' ( 1954), in which they provided a definitive mathematical proof of the existence of general equilibrium, using topological methods hitherto unknown in economics. .39
Gerard Debreu's contributions are in general equilibrium theory—highly
abstract theory about whether and how each market reaches equilibrium.
In a famous paper coauthored with Kenneth Arrow, published in 1954, Debreu
proved that under fairly unrestrictive assumptions, prices exist that
bring markets into equilibrium. In his 1959 book, The Theory of Value,
Debreu introduced more general equilibrium theory. He used complex analytic
tools from mathematics—set theory and topology—to prove his theorems.
In 1983 Debreu was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work on general equilibrium
Working papersDebreu, Gerard, 1961. "New Concepts and Techniques for Equilibrium Analysis," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 129, Cowles Foundation, Yale University
Debreu, Gerard, 1958. "Cardinal Utility for Even-chance Mixtures of Pairs of Sure Prospects," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 57, Cowles Foundation, Yale University
ArticlesDebreu, Gerard, 1991. "The Mathematization of Economic Theory," American Economic Review, Vol. 81 (1) pp. 1-7.
Debreu, Gerard, 1986. "Theoretical Models: Mathematical Forms and Economic Content," Econometrica, Vol. 54 (6) pp. 1259-70.