Wednesday, October 11, 2006

In my first semester at Acadia, back in 1994, I was taking introductory Economics from Dr. John Connor. I recall at about mid-term he started walking into class, and before he said anything he would write on the blackboard, “Nash, Harsanyi, Selten,” nothing more, nothing less, every day. Slowly he started to allude to the names and started asking people in the class if they had any significance. Perhaps weeks later, on a Monday, he directed everyone to an article that had appeared in the Globe and Mail the previous Saturday. The article was about the peculiar life of John Nash, a mathematician who did ground-breaking work in the field of game theory, which has since become an important branch of Economics. Nash suffered from schizophrenia for much of his adult life, but was able to get it under control and lead a relatively normal life starting sometime in the 80s. In 1994, John Nash won the Nobel Prize in Economics along with John Harsanyi and Reinhard Selten, all for their contributions to the study of game theory. Nash’s life would be immortalized in the biographical film “A Beautiful Mind.”

It was Dr. Connor who really sparked my interest in Economics, and in fact when I decided to pursue my second degree, I went to him for advice on how I could make it work. I will never forget his advice at the time. He said (approximately), “Economics will do you a hell of a lot better in the long run.” Whether that statement is true or not is still up for debate, but one thing is for sure, I still remember everything I learned in Economics like it was yesterday, but if you were to ask me to write a program in Modula, I would be hard pressed to produce anything.

On Monday, the Bank of Sweden announced the winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Economics. This year it is being awarded to Edmund Phelps for his work on intertemporal tradeoffs in macroeconomic policy. Every year when I hear the announcement, I think back to those early days at Acadia. I imagine how, if Dr. Connor was still teaching, a class full of freshman would stare perplexed at the name on the board until someone figured out to whom the mystery name belonged. Each year the Nobel Prize announcement reminds me of what a great five years I had at Acadia, and of course of one of the great influences in my life, Dr. John Connor.


sharon b said...

I saw that movie about John Nash, who proved that great things can be accomplished even in the face of a "handicap".
I'll bet if John Connor came into a classroom this year and wrote those names on the board (or showed them on power point :) every laptop would show a Google screen and everyone would immediately know who they were!
Andrew, it will be interesting to see where your interest in Economics takes you - a Nobel Prize maybe?

8:13 PM, October 11, 2006  
Joan said...

I hope Dr. Connor finds his way to your blog Andrew!

8:49 PM, October 11, 2006  
Auntie Sue said...

I have the book that the movie "A Beautiful Mind" was based on. I was amazed by the gifts that John Nash was given, to 'see' things that most people can't even imagine.
I am sure Dr. Connor would love to know how he influenced you, Andrew.

9:25 PM, October 11, 2006  

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