Usually, if you hear frantic knocking at your door in the dead of night, it’s not cause for celebration.
When Paul Milgrom of Stanford, California, heard his doorbell ringing and someone knocking repeatedly on the door earlier this month, though, it was for a very different reason.
It was his friend and neighbor Robert B. Wilson outside his door at 2:15 in the morning, and he had great news.
“Paul, it’s Bob Wilson,” Wilson said, as heard on the doorbell camera video.
“You’ve won the Nobel Prize. And so they’re trying to reach you, but they cannot. They don’t seem to have a number for you.”
“We gave them your cellphone number,” said the woman with Wilson — his wife, Mary, according to CNN.
Milgrom, stunned, answered, “Yeah, I have? Wow.”
After a few garbled exchanges, Mary laughingly asked him if he’d answer his phone, to which he replied,” Yes.”
Robert Wilson also won the 2020 Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, alongside Milgrom.
Their win had just been decided in Stockholm, on the other side of the world, and the committee had intended to notify both men of their win before announcing it publicly. However, they could only reach Wilson, who took it upon himself to be the bearer of good news.
The two have done extensive work in auction theory that has had a great impact on the way auctions are handled and run.
“This year’s Laureates in Economic Sciences started out with fundamental theory and later used their results in practical applications, which have spread globally,” Peter Frederiksson, chairman of the Prize Committee, said, according to a post on the Nobel Prize page.
“Their discoveries are of great benefit to society.”
According to the same post, the two gentlemen have revolutionized the way certain goods and services are auctioned.
“This year’s Laureates, Paul Milgrom and Robert Wilson, have studied how auctions work. They have also used their insights to design new auction formats for goods and services that are difficult to sell in a traditional way, such as radio frequencies. Their discoveries have benefitted sellers, buyers and taxpayers around the world.”
“Over time, societies have allocated ever more complex objects among users, such as landing slots and radio frequencies. In response, Milgrom and Wilson invented new formats for auctioning off many interrelated objects simultaneously, on behalf of a seller motivated by broad societal benefit rather than maximal revenue.”
“In 1994, the US authorities first used one of their auction formats to sell radio frequencies to telecom operators. Since then, many other countries have followed suit.”
While this is a major milestone for Milgrom and Wilson, the way in which Milgrom was notified of his win has provided a heartwarming moment for countless viewers and will be a charming story for years to come.
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