Jacques-François Thisse


Jacques Thisse and NARSC President Plane (left)

Jacques-Francois Thisse may be the most productive and distinguished regional scientist of his generation. He has developed original insights about the importance of space in human behavior in a broad variety of applications, including industrial organization, regional economic development, urban economics, international trade, game theory, public finance, and public choice. At the same time, he has maintained an active research program of theoretical work on issues of location and economic geography.
Jacques Thisse is, since last May, Professor Emeritus at the Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE) at the Catholic University of Louvain where he has served faithfully for more than four decades (with a few excursions to Parisian universities). He served two terms as President of CORE and bears major responsibility for the enviable reputation of the center and its scientific accomplishments.
Thisse received his undergraduate and graduate training in mathematics and economics at the University of Liège and was awarded the doctorate in 1975. He was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Montreal in 2005, by the Pantheon-Assas Paris II University in January 2010, and by the École Normale Supérieure de Cachan last April.
Jacques is the author or editor of fifteen books and several hundred scientific papers – works which have been published in the most important scientific journals in the world. Many of his books are required reading for students in regional science, operations research and economics (e.g., the Economics of Agglomeration, with M. Fujita, Cambridge University Press; Economic Geography, with P.-P. Combes and T. Mayer, Princeton University Press).
Dozens and dozens of his papers are required reading for specialists – indeed for almost any scholar who seeks to apply the perspective of economic geography to problems in economics and social sciences.
His fundamental work on the spatial aspects of industrial organization includes, for example, approaches for dissecting the linkage between spatial competition and differentiated markets, for examining the role of income disparities, and for understanding price competition and monopoly in spatial markets.
His applications to regional economics include theoretical contributions linking labor mobility and the heterogeneity of product demand over space, and more generally, the political economy of factor mobility. But his contributions to regional economics also include masterpieces of quite applied work, for example, analyses of the linkage between modes of learning and the development of industrial districts, the competitive advantage of regional clusters, and spatial policies to foster economic growth.
His research on urban economics has clarified the importance of spatial competition in the markets for land and for structures in pricing strategies and in the efficiency of resource allocation.
His research on public finance and games has included insightful models of public facilities location, analyses of public enterprises as instruments for regulating oligopolies, and consideration of strategies for community development.
And there is no indication that Jacques’ productivity has leveled off yet. Beyond his bibliography of almost 250 scientific papers, there are another dozen papers that are completed and under review at this moment – with such intriguing titles as “The Self-Organizing Urban Hierarchy,” and “Are Compact Cities Really Environmentally Friendly?”
This is not the first time Jacques Thisse has been honored for his scientific work in economics and regional science. He was elected a Fellow of the Econometric Society in 1992 and a Fellow of the European Economic Association in 2004. He was a member of the first cohort elected as Fellows of the Regional Science Association in 2003.
Thisse was awarded the Tord Palander Prize in Regional Science in 1986. His book, “The Economics of Agglomeration,” was selected for the William Alonso Award for Innovative Work in Regional Science in 2004, and he was the recipient of the European Prize in Regional Science in 2007.
Beyond his quite astonishing record of scientific accomplishment, Jacques Thisse’s behavior has illustrated the most practical application of regional science. Thisse believes that “space matters,” and for decades he has arranged his busy travel schedule to reduce the frictions of space. He actively participates in face-to-face regional science conferences throughout the world – in large meetings in Europe, Asia, and North America, but also in smaller events and seminars. Indeed, participation in local and regional events is always stimulated when the word gets out that Thisse will be there. In part, this reflects his scientific influence and his generosity of spirit. In part, however, this reflects the fact that conferences — especially conference dinners — are just more fun when Jacques Thisse is around.
The North American Regional Science Council is pleased to present the Walter Isard Award for Scholarly Achievement for 2010 to Jacques-Francois Thisse.

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