MINNEAPOLIS - 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, died Tuesday. He was 90.
The death was confirmed by Mark Cassutt, spokesman for the University of Minnesota, where Mr. Hurwicz was a professor emeritus of economics.
Mr. 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 be awarded a Nobel Prize, according to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
He shared his prize with Eric S. Maskin, a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, N.J., and Roger B. Myerson, 56, a professor at the University of Chicago.
The award was announced last October, and Mr. 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 Mr. Hurwicz, studied how game theory can help determine the best, most efficient method for allocating resources, the academy said.
Mr. Hurwicz - pronounced HER-wich - began teaching at the university in 1951. University president Robert Bruininks says he was "an extraordinary man" who left "a proud and lasting legacy."
"Not only were his economic theories groundbreaking, but he was a renaissance scholar, with a keen interest in many disciplines, an incisive mind and quick wit and a natural grace that endeared him to so many people," Bruininks said in a statement.
The award, known as the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, is not one of the original Nobel Prizes. It was created in 1968 by the Swedish central bank in Nobel's memory. The laureates share a $1.5 million prize.
When the award was announced last year, Mr. Hurwicz was still doing research, analyzing welfare economics and other topics, the University of Minnesota said.