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          1983 Nobel Laureate in Economics



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 economics.

A native of France, Debreu has spent most of his professional life at the University of California at Berkeley. In 1962 he started as a professor of economics and was appointed professor of mathematics in 1975. In 1976 Debreu was made a chevalier of the French Legion of Honor.

Selected Works:

Working papers

Debreu, Gerard, 1961. "New Concepts and Techniques for Equilibrium Analysis," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 129, Cowles Foundation, Yale University

Debreu, Gerard, 1961. "On a Theorem of Scarf," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 130, Cowles Foundation, Yale University

Debreu, Gerard, 1960. "A New Technique in Equilibrium Analysis," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 92, Cowles Foundation, Yale University

Debreu, Gerard, 1959. "Topological Methods in Cardinal Utility Theory," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 76, Cowles Foundation, Yale University

Debreu, Gerard, 1959. "On 'An Identity in Arithmetic'," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 72, 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

Debreu, Gerard, 1957. "Stochastic Choice and Cardinal Utility," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 39, Cowles Foundation, Yale University

Debreu, Gerard, 1956. "Market Equilibrium," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 10, Cowles Foundation, Yale University

Debreu, Gerard & Koopmans, Tjalling C., . "Additively Decompable Quasiconvex Functions," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 574, Cowles Foundation, Yale University


Debreu, 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.

Debreu, Gerard, 1984. "Economic Theory in the Mathematical Mode," American Economic Review, Vol. 74 (3) pp. 267-78.

Debreu, Gerard, 1976. "Smooth Preferences: A Corrigendum," Econometrica, Vol. 44 (4) pp. 831-32.

Debreu, Gerard, 1976. "Regular Differentiable Economies," American Economic Review, Vol. 66 (2) pp. 280-87.

Debreu, Gerard, 1972. "Smooth Preferences," Econometrica, Vol. 40 (4) pp. 603-15.

Debreu, Gerard, 1970. "Economies with a Finite Set of Equilibria," Econometrica, Vol. 38 (3) pp. 387-92.