Douglass C. North, PhD, has spent more than 50 years pondering complex variations of a simple question: Why do some countries become rich, while others remain poor? North graduated with a triple bachelor’s degree in political science, philosophy and economics from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1942, and later, in 1952, earned a doctorate in economics there. North received an honorary doctor of science degree in 2003.
He began his academic career at the University of Washington, where he spent 33 years on the economics faculty, including a 12-year stint as department chair.
North came to Washington University in St. Louis in 1983 as the Henry R. Luce Professor of Law and Liberty in the Department of Economics in Arts & Sciences and served as director of the Center in Political Economy from 1984-1990.
His research has focused on the formation of political and economic institutions and the consequences of these institutions on the performance of economies through time.
In 1992, he became the first economic historian to win one of the economics profession’s most prestigious honors, the John R. Commons Award. Currently, he is involved in the new and growing branch of economics called institutional economics, which draws heavily on his work and that of fellow Nobel laureate Ronald Coase.