One studies how best to manage resources like forests, fisheries and oil fields and is the first woman to win a Nobel in economics. The other looks at why some companies grow so large. Together the two Americans share this year's Nobel Prize in economics for groundbreaking work that could affect efforts to prevent another global financial crisis.
WASHINGTON - Americans Elinor Ostrom and Oliver Williamson won the Nobel Prize in economic sciences Monday for their research in the way economic decisions and transactions are made outside of the market.
Ostrom, who teaches at Indiana University in Bloomington, became the first woman to win the prize for economics since it was established 40 years ago. Williamson is a professor at the University of California at Berkeley.
Monday's final prizes of 2009 capped a year in which a record five women won Nobels. And it was an exceptionally strong year for the United States, too. Eleven American citizens, some of them with dual nationality, were among the 13 Nobel winners, including President Barack Obama, who won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday.
In other awards, American scientists Elizabeth Blackburn, Carol Greider and Jack Szostak shared the prize in medicine for discovering a key mechanism in the genetic operations of cells, an insight that has inspired new lines of research into cancer.
The physics prize was split between Charles Kao, who helped develop fiber-optic cable, and Americans Willard Boyle and George Smith, who invented the "eye" in digital cameras.
Americans Venkatraman Ramakrishnan and Thomas Steitz and Ada Yonath of Israel shared the chemistry prize for their atom-by-atom description of ribosomes.
Romanian-born German writer Herta Mueller won the literature prize for her critical depiction of life behind the Iron Curtain.
Ostrom said it was an honor to be the first woman to win a Nobel Prize in economics - and promised that she won't be the last. She said people discouraged her from seeking a doctorate when she applied for graduate school but she loved studying economics.
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Elinor Ostrom, 76, is a professor of political science at Indiana University.
Oliver Williamson, 77, is a professor at the graduate school of business at the University of California, Berkeley.
What they did
Ostrom showed how common resources - forests, fisheries, oil fields, grazing lands and irrigation systems - can be managed successfully by the people who use them, rather than by governments or private companies. Williamson, focused on how companies and markets differ in resolving conflicts. He found that companies are typically better able than markets to resolve conflicts when competition is limited. The work of both could help shape debate and inspire research to help prevent another economic debacle like the one that triggered the global recession.