On Thursday Elinor Ostrom will become the first woman and the first non-economist to accepts the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in Stockholm. Here's her fascination story.
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When Elinor Ostrom accepts the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences Thursday in Stockholm, Sweden, she will become the first woman ever to win what Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie termed "the highest honor her profession bestows."
Firsts are nothing new to the 76-year-old political science professor at IU. She also is the first non-economist to win the Nobel in economics, which she will share with co-winner Oliver Williamson, of the University of California at Berkeley. And she was the first woman to chair the political science department at IU, as well as the first woman to be elected president of the American Political Science Association.
Last week at the White House, she met with President Barack Obama and senior government officials to discuss how to increase opportunities and incentives for women in the sciences.
The gregarious Ostrom laughed and raised her right arm in good-natured affirmation when the "first woman" theme was emphasized at a campus reception in her honor last week. She said in a recent interview that she absolutely takes pride in breaking through gender barriers.
But, as with most things, Ostrom steers clear of being pigeonholed and typically finds a way to turn practically every topic back toward problem-solving, the common theme in her life.
Ostrom was born Aug. 7, 1933, in Los Angeles, Calif., the daughter of Adrian and Leah Awan. Her father was a set designer for the Hollywood Bowl and Civic Light Opera. She recalls tagging along with him on Saturdays, watching set construction and musical rehearsals and wishing she could become a ballerina. Having flat feet dashed that early goal, she said.
Her mother was a musical prodigy from South Dakota with perfect pitch, who attended the Boston School of Music in high school and later went on to manage the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra.
Neither of her parents was particularly religious, but she attended a Protestant church as a child, and often spent weekends staying with the sister of her Jewish father, who kept a kosher home.
"That was a wonderful experience for me, the Friday night discussions they had," she recalled. "It was a serious kosher home, and the Friday night discussions were very serious."
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Last Updated (Wednesday, 09 December 2009 08:21)