Robert Aumann

Robert Aumann

Infobox Scientist
name = Robert J. Aumann

image_size = 180px
birth_date = Birth date and age|1930|6|8
birth_place = Frankfurt am Main, Germany
residence = Israel
citizenship = Israel, United States
field = Mathematics and Economics
work_places = Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Stony Brook University
alma_mater = City College of New York and Massachusetts Institute of Technology
doctoral_advisor = George Whitehead, Jr.
doctoral_students =
known_for = Game Theory
prizes = Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics, John von Neumann Theory Prize, Harvey Prize in Science and Technology, Israel Prize for Economical Research
religion = Orthodox Judaism

Robert John Aumann (Hebrew name: Yisrael Aumann _he. ישראל אומן) (born June 8, 1930) is an Israeli 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 was 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 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 is currently a visiting leading 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.

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": []
# War is not irrational, but must be scientifically studied in order to be understood, and eventually conquered;
# Repeated game study de-emphasizes the "now" for the sake of the "later";
# 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 has also appeared extensively on Israeli media claiming that giving land to the Arabs is wrong based on the science behind game theory.

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 1000 signatures worldwide. []

Most recently, Aumann has modified his position. [,7340,L-3205817,00.html] In a speech to a pro-Zionist religious youth movement, Bnei Akiva, Aumann claimed that Israel is in 'deep trouble'. He revealed his belief that the anti-Zionist Satmar Jews might have been right in their condemnation of the Zionist movement. “I fear the Satmars were right.” he said, and quoted a verse: “Unless the Lord builds a house, its builders toil on it in vain.” (Psalm 127) Aumann feels that the historical Zionist establishment failed to transmit its message to its successors, because it was secular. The only way that Zionism can survive, according to Aumann, is if it has a religious basis.

Torah codes controversy

Aumann has drawn criticism for his support of Bible codes research. In his position as both a religious Jew and a man of science, the codes research holds special interest to him. He has partially vouched for the validity of the "Great Rabbis Experiment" (see bible code article) by Doron Witztum, Eliyahu Rips, and Yoav Rosenberg, which was published in "Statistical Science". Aumann not only arranged for Rips to give a lecture on Torah codes in the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, but sponsored the Witztum-Rips-Rosenberg paper for publication in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The Academy requires a member to sponsor any publication in its Proceedings; the paper was turned down however.

In 1996, a committee consisting of Robert J. Aumann, Dror Bar-Natan, Hillel Furstenberg, Isaak Lapides, and Rips, was formed to examine the results that had been reported by H.J. Gans regarding the existence of "encoded" text in the bible foretelling events that took place many years after the Bible was written. The committee performed two additional tests in the spirit of the Gans experiments. Both tests failed to confirm the existence of the putative code.

After a long and interesting analysis of the experiment and the dynamics of the controversy, stating for example that "almost everybody included [in the controversy] made up their mind early in the game" Aumann concluded:

"A priori", the thesis of the Codes research seems wildly improbable... Research conducted under my own supervision failed to confirm the existence of the codes - though it also did not establish their non-existence. So I must return to my "a priori" estimate, that the Codes phenomenon is improbable". [cite paper | author=Aumann, R.H., H. Furstenberg, I. Lapides, and D. Witztum | date=July 2004 | url= | format=PDF | title=Analyses of the 'Gans' Committee Report (#365) | publisher=Center for the Study of Rationality, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem | accessdate=2006-06-20]

Honours and awards

* 1983: Harvey Prize in Science and Technology
* 1994: Israel Prize for Economical Research
* 1998: Erwin Plein Nemmers Prize in Economics from Northwestern University [ [ Nemmers Prize Recipients] Northwestern University]
* 2002: Emet Prize for economics
* 2005: Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel (share US$1.3 million prize with Thomas Schelling)
* 2006: Builder of Jerusalem Award


* Values of Non-Atomic Games, Princeton University Press,Princeton, 1974 (with L.S. Shapley).
* Game Theory (in Hebrew), Everyman's University, Tel Aviv, 1981 (with Y. Tauman and S. Zamir), Vols. 1 & 2.
* Lectures on Game Theory, Underground Classics in Economics, Westview Press, Boulder, 1989.
* Handbook of Game Theory with economic applications, Vol 1-3, Elsevier, Amsterdam (coedited with S. Hart).
* Repeated Games with Incomplete Information, MIT Press, Cambridge, 1995 (with M. Maschler).
* Collected Papers, Vol 1-2, MIT Press, Cambridge, 2000.
*"Asphericity of alternating knots." Ann. of Math. (2) 64 1956 374--392.


External links

* [ His homepage]
* [ Aumann Nobel Prize lecture]
* [ His CV]
*MathGenealogy |id=24065
* [ IDEAS/RePEc]
* [ Extensive interview of Prof. Aumann shortly before his selection as the Nobel laureate by Sergiu Hart]
* [ Nobel Prize Announcement]
* [ More information about that Nobel Prize]
* [ Recording of the Nobel Prize announcement and Prof. Aumann's reaction to the prize]
* [ János Bolyai Prize]
* [ 2002 EMET Award]
* [ Center for the Study of Rationality]
* [ Solution to Talmud bankruptcy problem, from the Journal of Economic Theory, 1985]
* [ A report from the first press conference shortly after the announcement (with picture)] (Hebrew)
* [ "Une approche critique des travaux des deux Prix Nobel"] , by the Voltaire Network. fr icon
* [,7340,L-3179989,00.html Nobel laureate seeks 'cure' for war]
* Chris McGreal. [,2763,1664215,00.html Calls grow for withdrawal of Nobel prize] , "Guardian", December 10, 2005.
* [ "Madness in the method" by Bar-Hillel and Margalit] (explains Aumann's role in the Torah codes controversy).

NAME= Aumann, Robert
ALTERNATIVE NAMES= Aumann, Robert John; Aumann, Yisrael
SHORT DESCRIPTION= Mathematician and Economist
DATE OF BIRTH= June 8, 1930
PLACE OF BIRTH= Frankfurt am Main, Germany

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