Suzanne Scotchmer, UC Berkeley professor of law, economics and public policy, died Jan. 30 after a short battle with intestinal cancer. She was 64.
Scotchmer, who joined the campus faculty as an assistant and associate professor of public policy in 1986, was a dedicated researcher who spearheaded the development of an interdisciplinary approach toward applied economic theory on campus.
Born and raised in Alaska, Scotchmer was the granddaughter of gold rush immigrants. She graduated magna cum laude in 1970 with a bachelor’s in economics from the University of Washington. She came to UC Berkeley to obtain her master’s in statistics in 1979 and doctorate in economics in 1980.
After about six years of teaching economics at Harvard University after graduate school, Scotchmer returned to Berkeley as a professor at the Goldman School of Public Policy.
Scotchmer turned down many attractive offers at universities across the country throughout her professional career to stay and teach at UC Berkeley for more than 20 years, according to law lecturer and colleague Ken Taymor.
Having grown up in a poor fishing village, Scotchmer epitomized “the certain underdog that no one was placing large bets on,” making her a perfect fit for the university, said Eric Talley, her colleague and fellow law professor.
During her time at UC Berkeley, Scotchmer made important contributions to applied economic theory, such as evolutionary game theory and club theory.
As a professor at the UC Berkeley School of Law, she also combined her economics knowledge with Taymor’s legal perspective to jointly teach a class on the intersection of economics and law. She and Taymor were slated to teach another collaborative course this summer about economics in law practice.
Beyond the classroom, she also worked with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, consulting on patent and copyright cases as a scholar-in-residence.
“(She) was always aware that whatever we do should be about solving practical problems for people in the real world,” said Stephen Maurer, her partner and colleague. “She never did it entirely for its own sake.”
In the field of intellectual patents, Scotchmer added a new perspective of “cumulative innovations,” the recognition that all inventions stem from one another. She compiled her analysis on the issue of preventing monopolies with the use of patents while maintaining the incentive for entrepreneurs to better their products in her book, “Innovation and Incentives,” published in 2004.
Despite her expertise in the field of theoretical economics, Scotchmer was known for her insatiable curiosity, which is rare in senior academics, according to Talley.
A private memorial service was held in Alaska, and a second memorial service in Berkeley for her colleagues and former students is still in the works.
In addition to Maurer, Scotchmer is survived by brother Alan Andersen, niece Greta Andersen and nephew Jaycen Andersen.