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Israeli Professor Takes Nobel for His Studies of Game Theory

It may sound uncanny, but an Israeli has educated the world on conflict resolution. Such was the praise heaped on Robert Aumann, the Hebrew University professor named Monday as co-winner of the 2005 Nobel Prize in economics.

Aumann, 75, and American scientist Thomas Schelling "enhanced our understanding of conflict and cooperation through game-theory analysis," the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in a statement.

The two will share the $1.3 million prize.

Game theory is the science of strategy, the study of how various rival groups — whether business colleagues or warring parties — can interact to secure an ideal outcome. Aumann specialized in "repeated games," analyzing conflict over time.

"I am very moved by this honor," he told reporters outside his office at the Hebrew University’s Center for Rationality. "I think credit should also go to members of the school of thought who have helped to make Israel perhaps the world’s No. 1 superpower when it comes to game theory."

Aumann, who is religiously observant, was born in Frankfurt but moved to the United States with his family in 1938. He took degrees from the City College of New York and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, emigrating to Israel in 1956.

Aumann is the second Israeli to win the Nobel for economics. Two Israeli biochemists shared the Nobel Prize for chemistry last year, and former Prime Ministers Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Menachem Begin have won the Nobel Peace Prize.

"His work is important and a major contribution to the world of economics and to theory," Hebrew University President Menachem Megidor told Israel Radio about Aumann.

Schelling, 84, is a University of Maryland lecturer recognized for his application of game theory to issues of global security.

Aumann’s work has focused on the more abstract principle of "repeated games," or conflict that lasts over extended period.

In a telephone conversation with the academy, he suggested that this could give insight into Israel’s struggle for survival in the Middle East.

"I do hope that perhaps some game theory can be used and be part of this solution," he said.

But Aumann, who lost a son during Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982, said an end to the conflict with the Palestinians was far off.

"It’s been going on for at least 80 years and as far as I can see it is going to go on for at least another 80 years. I don’t see any end to this one, I’m sorry to say," he told reporters.

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