Robert Aumann bigraphy, stories - Mathematician and Economist

Robert Aumann : biography

June 8, 1930 -

Robert John Aumann (Hebrew name: , Yisrael Aumann; born June 8, 1930) is an Israeli-American mathematician and a member of the United States National Academy of Sciences. He is a professor at the Center for the Study of Rationality in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel. He also holds a visiting position at Stony Brook University and is one of the founding members of the Center for Game Theory in Economics at Stony Brook.

Aumann received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics in 2005 for his work on conflict and cooperation through game-theory analysis. He shared the prize with Thomas Schelling.


Early years

Aumann was born in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, and fled to the United States with his family in 1938, two weeks before the Kristallnacht pogrom. He attended the Rabbi Jacob Joseph School, a yeshiva high school in New York City. He graduated from the City College of New York in 1950 with a B.Sc. in Mathematics. He received his M.Sc. in 1952, and his Ph.D. in Mathematics in 1955, both from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His doctoral dissertation, Asphericity of Alternating Linkages, concerned knot theory. His advisor was George Whitehead, Jr.

In 1956 he joined the Mathematics faculty of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and has been a visiting professor at Stony Brook University since 1989.

Scientific contribution

Aumann's greatest contribution was in the realm of repeated games, which are situations in which players encounter the same situation over and over again.

Aumann was the first to define the concept of correlated equilibrium in game theory, which is a type of equilibrium in non-cooperative games that is more flexible than the classical Nash equilibrium. Furthermore, Aumann has introduced the first purely formal account of the notion of common knowledge in game theory. He collaborated with Lloyd Shapley on the Aumann-Shapley value. He is also known for his agreement theorem, in which he argues that under his given conditions, two Bayesian rationalists with common prior beliefs cannot agree to disagree.

Aumann and Maschler used Game Theory also to analyze Talmudic dilemmas. They were able to solve the mystery about the "division problem", a long-time dilemma of explaining the Talmudic rationale in dividing the heritage of a late husband to his three wives, depending on the worth of the heritage compared to its original worth. The article in that matter was dedicated to a son of Aumann, Shlomo, who was killed during the 1982 Lebanon War while serving as a tank gunner in the Israel Defense Forces's armored corps.

These are some of the themes of Aumann's Nobel lecture, named "War and Peace":

  1. War is not irrational, but must be scientifically studied in order to be understood, and eventually conquered;
  2. Repeated game study de-emphasizes the "now" for the sake of the "later";
  3. Simplistic peacemaking can cause war, while arms race, credible war threats and mutually assured destruction can reliably prevent war.

Political views

Aumann is a member in the Professors for a Strong Israel (PSI), a right-wing political group. Aumann opposed the disengagement from Gaza in 2005 claiming it is a crime against Gush Katif settlers and a serious threat to the security of Israel. Aumann draws on a case in game theory called the Blackmailer Paradox to demonstrate that giving land to the Arabs is strategically foolish based on the mathematical theory. By presenting an unyielding demand, the Arab states force Israel to "yield to blackmail due to the perception that it will leave the negotiating room with nothing if it is inflexible.

As a result of his political views, and his use of his research to justify them, the decision to give him the Nobel prize was criticized in the European press. A petition to cancel his prize garnered signatures from 1,000 academics worldwide.

Living octopus

Living octopus

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