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Youngsters Enlightened and Delighted

Sir. James Mirrlees gives a lecture to the students at Beijing No. 101 Middle School on Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2008. [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com/Zhang Zhang]

Yu Ziwen was still overwhelmed, even after Sir. James Mirrlees exited the lecture hall of Beijing's No. 101 Middle School.

The teenage girl was given an opportunity to put the first question to the 1996 Nobel laureate, who gave a lecture during his visit to the school on Wednesday. Sir James, who won his award in the field of economic sciences, was in town as part of the ongoing Nobel Laureates Beijing Forum 2008.

"I was so excited when talking with him and I think it would be better if I spoke more fluently at the time," recalled the student who is in the first year of high school.

Yu Ziwen is interested in Chinese and English and plans to go abroad for her college education after finishing high school. So her question was about overseas study.

"I have decided to study abroad after graduating from here and Britain is one of my possible destinations. Since Sir Mirrlees is from Scotland, I think my question was suitable for him and his advice would be very helpful."

Sir Mirrlees was the second Nobel laureate to visit the school after Barry J. Marshall, the Australian winner of the 2005 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, visited the school in 2006.

Yu Ziwen said besides the Q&A section, she was also attracted by Sir. Mirrlees' speech, and the stories about him and his brother, which illustrated the point that youngsters should broaden their views and not just focus on textbooks.

"In addition to paying attention to study, I will now try to spend time on other interests too," the girl said.

Yu Ziwen raises a question for Sir James Mirrlees following a lecture by the 1996 Nobel Prize winner in economics at the Beijing No.101 Middle School on Wednesday, Nov 12, 2008.[Photo: CRIENGLISH.com/Zhang Zhang]

The professor spent most of the lecture recounting the different experiences he and his brother shared. Both of them have achieved great successes in their fields, but their paths to success have been completely different, he told the audience.

Sir Mirrlees' whole career has been linked to education. Since finishing an economic PhD from Cambridge University in 1963, he has been dedicated to college education and research. Currently, he is still the distinguished professor-at-large at several universities.

However, his brother, who Sir Mirrlees says left school at an early age and never received a college education, became a successful banker later through decades of diligence and hard work.

Liu Taochang impressed everyone at the lecture, including Sir Mirrlees, with his professional economic question about the 14 consecutive rates rises in the U.S. led by then Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan, in 2005.

The 16-year-old said it was important for him to attend the lecture and he was thrilled to get an opportunity to discuss economics with his idol.

"I have known the name of Sir Mirrlees for quite some time since I'm interested in economics and like to read books relating to the economy, business and banking, areas of interest that are also shared by Sir Mirrlees."

He said he hoped to study economics in the future and the economist's lecture had only fuelled this desire of his.

After graduating from the University of Edinburgh in mathematics in 1957, Sir Mirrlees went to Cambridge, where he finished a PhD in economics in 1963 with his thesis entitled "Optimal Planning under Uncertainty."

He was awarded the Nobel Prize in economics in 1996 for contributions to the theory of asymmetric information, and was knighted by the Queen of England in 1997.

Sir. James Mirrlees receives a warm welcome from the students at Beijing's No. 101 Middle School on Wednesday, Nov. 12th, 2008.[Photo: CRIENGLISH.com/Zhang Zhang]

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