Leonid Hurwicz, oldest Nobelist

Leonid Hurwicz, who shared the Nobel Prize in economics last year for developing a theory that helps explain how buyers and sellers can maximize their gains, has died at age 90, a spokesman said Wednesday.

Hurwicz died Tuesday, said Mark Cassutt, spokesman for the University of Minnesota, where Hurwicz was an emeritus economics professor.

Hurwicz was given his prize in Minneapolis last December because he couldn't make the trip to Stockholm. At age 90, he was the oldest person ever to win a Nobel, according to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

He shared his prize with Eric Maskin, a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, N.J., and Roger Myerson a professor at the University of Chicago.

The award was announced last October, and Hurwicz said he was surprised to win.

“There were times when other people said I was on the short list, but as time passed and nothing happened, I didn't expect the recognition would come because people who were familiar with my work were slowly dying off,” he said.

In its announcement, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said the three “laid the foundations of mechanism design theory,” which plays a central role in contemporary economics and political science.

Essentially, the three men, starting in 1960 with Hurwicz, studied how game theory can help determine the best, most efficient method for allocating resources, the academy said.