Elinor Ostrom, an Indiana University professor of political science and the first woman to win a Nobel Prize in economics, died of cancer this morning at age 78, a university spokesman announced today. Ostrom shared the 2009 Nobel Prize for economics with Oliver Williamson from the University of California Berkeley. They were honored for analyzing the rules by which people exercise authority in companies and economic systems.
"Indiana University has lost an irreplaceable and magnificent treasure," the university's president said. "Throughout her lifetime, Lin has brought distinction to the university though her groundbreaking work." Ostrom's research demonstrated how common resources—forests, fisheries, oil fields, or grazing lands—can be managed successfully by the people who use them, rather than by governments or private companies. "What we have ignored is what citizens can do," she said when accepting her prize, "versus just having somebody in Washington ... make a rule."