Elinor Ostrom, the only woman to win the Nobel Prize in economics and a professor of political science at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, has died. She was 78.
Ostrom died today from pancreatic cancer at IU Health Bloomington Hospital, the school said in a statement.
She received the Nobel in 2009 for work showing that informal groups of ordinary people can sometimes manage natural resources such as forests and lakes better than governments or private companies.
Ostrom had a “passion for the epochal academic study of the intersections between economics and societal institutions,” according to the statement.
“Indiana University has lost an irreplaceable and magnificent treasure with the passing of Elinor Ostrom,” university President Michael A. McRobbie said. “Throughout her lifetime, Lin has brought distinction to the university through her groundbreaking work which received the ultimate recognition in 2009.”
Elinor Awan was born on Aug. 7, 1933, in Los Angeles, and grew up during the Great Depression. Because her family’s house was located “at the lower edge of Beverly Hills,” Ostrom’s mother arranged for her to attend Beverly Hills High School, where she joined the debate team and competed around the state, according to her autobiography on the Nobel Prize website.
“While it was a challenge being a poor kid in a rich kid’s school, it did give me a different perspective on the future,” Ostrom wrote. “Since 90 percent of the students in Beverly Hills High School went to college, it appeared going to college was the ‘normal’ thing to do.”
She enrolled in the University of California, Los Angeles, becoming the first member of her immediate family to attend college. After graduating in three years, she earned a master’s degree and Ph.D. in political science from UCLA.
She became a professor at Indiana University in 1974, and was president of the American Political Science Association in 1996 and 1997.
Calling herself a political economist, Ostrom said that her work should encourage citizens that they have a “capacity and power” beyond the bureaucracies that govern them.
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