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Stanford professor learns he won Nobel Prize through security camera

Posted at 12:11 PM, Oct 13, 2020

When two Stanford economists, Bob Wilson and Paul Milgrom, won the 2020 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, it was announced very early in the morning Pacific time. So early, that one of the men didn’t pick up their phone and was told about the award through his security camera.

“Paul, it’s Bob Wilson. You’ve won the Nobel Prize, and they’re trying to reach you,” Wilson said to his co-recipient through the front door camera around 2 a.m. PT.

Milgrom responds, “Wow, yeah, OK.”

It seems Wilson had his own mishap moments before standing on Milgrom’s porch. Stanford University says Wilson was caught off-guard by the early morning live announcement from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, and unplugged his home phone thinking it was an incoming spam call.

The Nobel committee had to call his wife instead to make the personal connection.

Wilson and his wife then walked over to Milgrom’s home. Security footage shows them repeatedly ringing his doorbell to wake him up. When Milgrom finally answers, Wilson shares the news.

“Will you answer your phone?” Wilson’s wife playfully asks Milgrom after telling him they gave the Nobel committee his cell phone number.

Wilson and Milgrom have known each other since the 1970s, when Milgrom was Wilson’s graduate student.

The two won the Nobel Prize for “improvements to auction theory and inventions of new auction formats.”

“Bob Wilson and Paul Milgrom’s path-breaking discoveries in auction theory opened up new possibilities in real-world transactions,” said Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne in a statement. “Their insights into bidding and pricing have become integral to our modern economy.”

“There are times that I have ideas and people think, ‘That’s too novel, that’s crazy, we’re not going to try that,’ ” said Milgrom. “But I think that one of the effects of a prize like this is that people will pause before rejecting. They’ll take things more seriously, and that will help me make novel things happen.”