When Angus Deaton’s phone rang shortly after 6am on Saturday with a “very Swedish voice” on the line, the economist thought it was a prank.
Eventually the mystery voice convinced him of its authenticity and that the professor of economics and international affairs at Princeton University in New Jersey had indeed won the Nobel Prize for Economics for 2015.
“They spent a lot of time reassuring me that it wasn’t a prank call, so I then began to worry it actually was a prank, as that’s the sort of thing they’d say,” joked Professor Deaton at the weekend’s press conference at Princeton.
And nowhere was the news that it was not a hoax call met with more delight than here in the Borders, as Professor Deaton grew up in the small village of Bowden, near Melrose, where his late parents, Leslie and Lily, lived for more than half-a-century.
Speaking this week to The Southern from his home in the United States, Professor Deaton says he is proud to have grown up in Bowden and it, and the Borders, remain places very special to him.
And despite the whirlwind of global media attention, Professor Deaton said the idea of something about the award appearing in his old local newspaper, The Southern, was “terrific”.
“I do think of myself as having grown up in Bowden. I lived there before I went to Cambridge [university] - my parents lived there for 60 years and my sister, Mairi, still lives in the village.
“I think Bowden really was the place I grew up, in the countryside around there and it is a very important place to me,” he said.
Born in Edinburgh in 1945, Professor Deaton has been awarded the Nobel Prize for his “analysis of consumption, poverty and welfare”, according to awarding organisation, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
To give him his full title, Professor Deaton, who celebrates his 70th birthday on Monday, is the Dwight D. Eisenhower Professor of Economics and International Affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and the Economics Department at Princeton University, where his main areas of research have been in health, wellbeing and economic development.
His current research focuses on the determinants of health in rich and poor countries,
He holds both British and US citizenship and has also taught at Cambridge University and the University of Bristol.
He is a corresponding Fellow of the British Academy, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and of the Econometric Society and, in 1978, was the first recipient of the Society’s Frisch Medal.
Professor Deaton was President of the American Economic Association in 2009 and was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences in April this year.
The Nobel Committee said: “To design economic policy that promotes welfare and reduces poverty, we must first understand individual consumption choices. More than anyone else, Angus Deaton has enhanced this understanding.”
The award, which includes prize money of 8m Swedish kronor (£637,000), was not created by Alfred Nobel in 1895, but was added by Sweden’s central bank in 1968 as a memorial to the industrialist.
The Nobel Prizes will be given to winners on December 10 at ceremonies in Stockholm and Oslo.
Professor Deaton told The Southern he was delighted to become a Nobel Prize laureate: “It continues a distinguished tradition of economics in Scotland and one of the joys, for me, is to have this Scottish connection.”