DEFINITION of Muhammad Yunus

Muhammad Yunus is a professor of economics who was awarded the 2006 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his efforts in developing social and economic improvements through microcredit and microloan operations. Most notably, Yunus founded the Grameen Bank, which is known for loaning billions of dollars to impoverished people all over the world.

BREAKING DOWN Muhammad Yunus

Born in Bangladesh on June 28, 1940, Yunus completed his BA and MA at Bangladesh's Dhaka University. Upon graduation, he joined the Bureau of Economics and would later receive a Fulbright scholarship to study in the United States. In 1971, Yunus completed his PhD in economics at Vanderbilt University in 1971. Following his studies, Yunus returned to Bangladesh to become the head of Chittagong University's Economics department in the early 1970s. 

In 1976, Yunus began loaning very small sums of money to local women who needed to buy materials to produce their products. Traditional banks wouldn’t offer loans or lines of credit to people without collateral, but Yunus believed that the very poorest of a culture could raise their own small business activity and their station with microcredit and microloans.  

It was this “discovery” of microcredit that would lead him towards the beginnings of forming the Grameen bank and his future Nobel Prize. Yunus began borrowing money from other banks to make loans to the poor, with the period between 1976 and 1983 as a pilot program.  In 1983, Yunus formally opened the Grameen (Village) bank, which served as a way to offer microcredit to entry-level and subsistence entrepreneurs.  

By the mid-2000s, it was estimated that Yunus has made billions of dollars worth of loans to some of the world’s poorest people. Perhaps more importantly, Yunus' scheme and his promotion of microcredit led to the formation of hundreds of similar projects in nations around the globe. 

In 2006, Yunus became the first Bangladeshi to receive a Nobel Prize in any of the award disciplines. His country awarded a commemorative stamp to congratulate him. Yunus then pledged the $1.4 million in prize money to a company that wished to produce low cost food for the poor, and the rest to setting up an eye hospital in his native community.

As Yunus’ achievements spread, so too did the awards that came his way. In addition to the Nobel Prize, Yunus was listed as the number 2 most important global thinker in Foreign Policy magazine in 2008. Yunus was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2010. In 2012, Yunus became the chancellor of Glasgow Caledonian University of Scotland, and he also serves on the board of directors of the United Nations Foundation, which is a charitable operation funded by a $1 billion donation from Ted Turner. Yunus also has two million followers on Google Plus, making him one of the most followed people on earth.