Who is Robert J. Aumann

Robert J Aumann is a mathematician and economist. In 2005, he received the Nobel Prize in Economics along with his co-recipient Thomas Schelling. Aumann was born in Germany in 1930. In 1938, his family fled to the US to escape the Nazis. Aumann eventually moved to Jerusalem, where he has lived and worked ever since.  

Aumann’s most lauded contributions to the fields of math and economics have been in the realm of game theory. Game theory is a way of looking at hypothetical social situations in non-cooperative, or competitive situations. The study of game theory helps explain strategy and rules for optimal decision-making in competitive situations.

Other pioneers in the world of game theory include the mathematicians John Nash and John von Neumann, as well as the economist Oskar Morgenstern. Game theory can be applied to numerous real world situations, including psychology, war and business.

BREAKING DOWN Robert J. Aumann

Robert J Aumann first grabbed the attention of the mathematics world with his work on repeated games, which he published as a set of theories in 1959. He later developed and published his Folk Theorem. Taken together, these publications describe the relationship between equilibrium behavior in repeated games and cooperative behavior, the basis for the concept of correlated equilibrium.

Aumann was the first person to articulate correlated equilibrium as a phenomenon. Correlated equilibrium is similar to Nash’s Equilibrium, though considered more flexible.

Robert J Aumann earned his PhD from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1955, focusing on the mathematical theory of rope knots. From there, he went on to work for the Analytical Research Group at Princeton, where his work focused on the theoretical problem of defending a city from aerial attack. At that time he began to focus on game theory, a tool he had encountered through the mathematician John Nash while at MIT.

Religious Work

Aumann is a religious Jew and has gained attention outside of the fields of math and economics for using game theory to analyze dilemmas in the Talmud, or Jewish scripture. He also briefly stirred controversy for his interest in bible or Torah codes. However, after delving into experimentation and research with peers, Aumann determined that the experiment failed to confirm the existence of any definitive code.

Aumann has given lectures within Israel on the importance of maintaining religious belief in order to keep the state alive. He has long been a vocal proponent of Israel as a Jewish state and cited game theory as he argued against the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in 2005.