Three of the noted scientists and scholars awarded Nobel Prizes in 1996 have ties to Yale. William Vickrey, who received a Bachelor of Science degree from Yale in 1935 and was a professor at Columbia University, received the Nobel Prize in Economics for laying the groundwork for studies in an area of micro-economic theory called "asymmetric information." The theory measures the discrepancy between the buyer's and the seller's knowledge of a product as a key to better understanding market prices.
Professor Vickrey, who elaborated his theory in the late 1940s into a model of income taxation that attains a balance between efficiency and equity, died just days after being notified by the Nobel committee of his prize. He made significant contributions to the efficient pricing of public services, such as New York subway fares. Professor Vickrey's co-winner, James Mirrlees of Cambridge University, was once a visiting professor at Yale University.
David M. Lee, who received his Ph.D. in physics from Yale in 1959 and is now at Cornell University, received the Nobel Prize in Physics for finding that, at temperatures within two-thousandths of a degree above absolute zero, the isotope helium-3 can be made to flow without losing energy to friction and can even flow uphill. The phenomenon is known as superfluidity and may reflect conditions as they existed a fraction of a second after the universe's creation.
Two current members of the Yale faculty who are Nobel laureates are biology professor Sidney Altman, co-winner of the 1989 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, and James Tobin, professor emeritus of economics, who was co-winner of the 1981 Nobel Prize in Economics.