Coase, Ronald (Harry)(1910– ) economist; born in London, England. Educated in England, he worked as a statistician in the British War Cabinet before emigrating to the U.S.A. in 1951. After teaching at the University of Virginia (1958–64), he taught at the University of Chicago Law School from 1964 until his retirement in 1979. He is known for arriving at his theories by visiting work sites and for advancing his views in straightforward English as opposed to abstruse mathematics. Two journal articles in particular are the basis of his widespread influence: "The Nature of the Firm" (Economics, November 1937) analyzed the economics of "transaction costs," secondary expenses such as those involved in negotiating contracts and in other activities that affect business operations and decisions; and "The Problem of Social Cost" (Journal of Law and Economics, October 1960) spawned two subdisciplines: the economics of property rights and the economics of law. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in economics (1991).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.