Vernon L. Smith

Written By
Paul Tracy
Updated July 28, 2021

Who is Vernon L. Smith?

Vernon L. Smith is an American economist who won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2002.

Vernon L. Smith Background

Born in 1927 in Wichita, Kansas, Vernon L. Smith earned an engineering degree from Cal Tech in 1949 and a master's degree in economics from the University of Kansas in 1952. He earned a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard in 1955. He was an economics professor for several decades at Purdue University, Brown University, University of Massachusetts, Caltech, University of Arizona and George Mason University.

Why Does Vernon L. Smith Matter?

Smith is most famous for his work in developing the "induced-value method," which is now a standard tool in economics. Until then, most economists believed that economists were not able to perform controlled laboratory experiments of human economic motivation.

Smith’s experiments, published in 1962, involved randomly giving buyers and sellers different ideas about the value of a commodity. In the experiments, Smith showed that the theoretical "market prices" were close to the real-world prices. Many of the experiments focused on public auctions, illustrating how bidding affected selling prices. Smith also devised “wind-tunnel tests,” which tested the effects of deregulation.

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