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John O. Ledyard

Allen and Lenabelle Davis Professor of Economics and Social Sciences, Emeritus
John Ledyard headshot
Contact information for John O. Ledyard
Contact Method Value
Mail Code: MC 228-77
Administrative Assistant:
A.B., Wabash College, 1963; M.S., Purdue University, 1965; Ph.D., 1967; D.Lit.h.c., Purdue University. Professor, Caltech, 1985-2016; Davis Professor, 2002-16; Davis Professor, Emeritus, 2016-. Executive Officer for the Social Sciences, 1989-92; Chair, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences, 1992-2002.

Research Interests

Theoretical Economics; Game Theory and Mechanism Design; Electricity Markets and Policy (Integrating Economics and Control); Management of Fisheries (Market Design for Catch Share Programs); Public Management (Space Exploration)


John Ledyard has made fundamental contributions to game theory and its applications to economics and political science. His research on the theoretical foundations and applications of mechanism design has contributed greatly to our understanding of the roles of incentives and information in organizations, markets, and political systems. Ledyard was also the first to apply Bayesian games to political science, and he developed a general equilibrium approach to the theory of electoral competition and voting with private information. He has also worked actively in the practical application of the principles of economics and game theory, mechanism design, and market design to solve real-world allocation problems. These applications include the design of markets for trading pollution rights, combinatorial auctions, and portfolio trading in thin markets.  

His current basic research is in the area of behavioral mechanism design. His current applied research involves the design of market-based approaches for managing spacecraft and instrument design to reduce cost overruns and improve the science return, the design of auctions to control over-fishing and create sustainable fisheries, and the design of electricity markets integrated with the control systems to create stable and efficient management of the grid.

Ledyard was previously on the faculty at Northwestern University from 1970 to 1985 and at Carnegie Mellon University from 1967 to 1970. He was a Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Scholar at Caltech in 1977–1978 and a visiting professor at Caltech in 1983–1984. He received an honorary degree from Purdue University and Indiana University in 1993. He was elected an Economic Theory Fellow by the Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (2011) and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1999), the Econometric Society (1977), and the Public Choice Society (2004). He was the president of the Public Choice Society and has served on several editorial boards of economic and public choice journals, as well as on advisory committees to the National Science Foundation and other organizations. 

Selected Awards

  • Economic Theory Fellow, elected 2011
  • Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, elected 1999
  • Fellow of Econometric Society, elected 1977
  • Fellow of Public Choice Society, elected 2004
  • Honorary Ph.D. Degree, Purdue University and Indiana University, 1993
  • The Annual Koc University Prize for the Best Paper of the Year 1996 in Economic Design with Charles Noussair and David Porter for “The Allocation of a Shared Resource Within an Organization,” Economic Design, Vol. 2, No. 2, November 1996, pp. 163-192.

Professional Societies

  • President, Public Choice Society, 1980-1982
  • Executive Committee, Economic Science Association, 1986-88
  • Nancy L. Schwartz Memorial Lecture, KGSM, Northwestern University, 2005
  • Ida Beam Lecture, University of Iowa, 1988
  • Hooker Distinguished Visiting Professor, McMaster University, 1995-96
  • Sherman Fairchild Scholar, Caltech, 1976-77
  • Associate Editor, Journal of Economic Theory, 1977-1980
  • Associate Editor, Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 1987-95
  • Editorial Board, Economic Theory, 1989-2001
  • Associate Editor, Economic Design, 1994-2006
  • Editor, Review of Economic Design, 2006-
  • Associate Editor, Journal of Public Economic Theory, 1999-
  • Advisory Panel on Economics, National Science Foundation, 1978-1980
  • Executive Committee of the Advisory Committee for Social and Economic Science, National Science Foundation, 1980
  • Program Committee, World Congress of the Econometric Society, 1980
  • Chairman, Program Committee, North American Meeting of the Econometric Society, December 1981
  • National Academy of Sciences, Panel to Advise on National Science Fellowships, 1985
  • Economics Program Oversight Committee, National Science Foundation, 1989