James Harris Simons

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James Harris Simons
James Simons 2007.jpg
Simons speaking at the Differential Geometry, Mathematical Physics, Mathematics and Society conference in 2007 in Bures-sur-Yvette.
Born 1938 (age 75–76)
Newton, Massachusetts
Alma mater Massachusetts Institute of Technology (BS)
University of California, Berkeley (PhD)
Occupation Founder and CEO of Renaissance Technologies
Net worth Increase $12.5 billion (March 2014)[1]
Spouse(s) Barbara Simons
Marilyn Hawrys Simons[2]
Children 3[2]
Parents Matthew Simons
Marcia Kantor

James Harris "Jim" Simons (born 1938) is an American hedge fund manager, mathematician, and philanthropist. Considering his background as a code breaker and an expert in pattern recognition [3] some also consider him as one of the pioneers of Financial signal processing.

In 1982, Simons founded Renaissance Technologies, a private hedge fund investment company based in New York with over $15 billion under management. Simons retired at the end of 2009 as CEO of one of the world's most successful hedge fund companies.[4] Simons' net worth is estimated to be $12.5 billion.[1]

Simons lives with his wife Marilyn H. Simons in Manhattan and Long Island, and is the father of five children; two of his children died young under tragic circumstances—a drowning and an auto accident.

Simons shuns the limelight and rarely gives interviews, citing Benjamin the Donkey in Animal Farm for explanation: "God gave me a tail to keep off the flies. But I'd rather have had no tail and no flies."[5] On October 10, 2009, Simons announced he would retire on January 1, 2010 but remain at Renaissance as nonexecutive chairman.[6]

Early life and career[edit]

James Harris Simons was born to a Jewish family,[7][8] the only child of Marcia (née Kantor)[9] and Matthew Simons, and raised in Brookline, Massachusetts.[10] His father owned a shoe factory.[11] He received a Bachelor of Science in mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1958[12] and a Doctor of Philosophy, also in mathematics, from the University of California, Berkeley in 1961[13] at the age of 23.

Between 1964 and 1968, he was on the research staff of the Communications Research Division of the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA). Simons taught mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University. In 1968, he was appointed chairman of the math department at Stony Brook University. Simons was asked by IBM in 1973 to attack the block cipher Lucifer, an early but direct precursor to the Data Encryption Standard (DES).[14]

In 1976, Simons won the American Mathematical Society's Oswald Veblen Prize in Geometry, for work that involved a recasting of the subject of area minimizing multi-dimensional surfaces and characteristic forms. This resulted in his proof of the Bernstein conjecture up to real dimension 8, and an improvement of a certain "regularity" result of Wendell Fleming on a generalized Plateau's problem.

Simons' research involved the discovery and application of certain geometric measurements, and resulted in the Chern-Simons form (also known as Chern–Simons invariants, or Chern–Simons theory). In 1974, his theory was published in Characteristic Forms and Geometric Invariants, co-authored with the differential geometer Shiing-Shen Chern. The theory is used in theoretical physics, particularly string theory.

In 1978, he left academia to venture into the business world. He started his own hedge fund management firm that traded in commodities and financial instruments on a discretionary basis.

Business career[edit]

For more than two decades, Simons' Renaissance Technologies' hedge funds, which trade in markets around the world, have employed mathematical models to analyze and execute trades, many automated. Renaissance uses computer-based models to predict price changes in easily-traded financial instruments. These models are based on analyzing as much data as can be gathered, then looking for non-random movements to make predictions.

Renaissance employs many specialists with non-financial backgrounds, including mathematicians, physicists, signal processing experts and statisticians. The firm's latest fund is the Renaissance Institutional Equities Fund (RIEF).[15] RIEF has historically trailed the firm's better-known Medallion fund, a separate fund that only contains the personal money of the firm's executives.[16]

"It's startling to see such a highly successful mathematician achieve success in another field," says Edward Witten, professor of physics at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ, and considered by many of his peers to be the most accomplished theoretical physicist alive... (Gregory Zuckerman, "Heard on the Street", Wall Street Journal, July 1, 2005).

In 2006 Simons was named Financial Engineer of the Year by the International Association of Financial Engineers. In 2007 he was estimated to have personally earned $2.8 billion,[17] $1.7 billion in 2006,[18] $1.5 billion in 2005,[19] (the largest compensation among hedge fund managers that year)[20] and $670 million in 2004.


The wealth that Simons has amassed funds his many philanthropic pursuits. Known as the "Quant King,”[7] Simons is a benefactor for the mathematical sciences, supporting research projects, chairs, and conferences in the United States and abroad.

Simons and his second wife, Marilyn Hawrys Simons, co-founded the Paul Simons Foundation, a charitable organization that supports projects related to education and health, in addition to scientific research.[2] Marilyn serves as the foundation's President, while Jim serves as its Secretary and Treasurer.[21] In memory of his son Paul, whom he had with his first wife, Barbara Simons, he established Avalon Park, a 130-acre (0.53 km2) nature preserve in Stony Brook. In 1996, 34-year-old Paul was killed by a car while riding a bicycle near the Simons home. Another son, Nick Simons, drowned at age 24 while on a trip to Bali in Indonesia in 2003.[11] Nick had worked in Nepal and the Simons have become large donors to Nepalese healthcare through the Nick Simons Institute.[22][23] Jim Simons also founded Math for America, a non-profit organization with the mission to significantly improve math education in public schools.

In early 2006, he led a group of employees and executives of Renaissance Technologies Corporation and of Brookhaven Science Associates in donating $13 million to compensate for a budget shortfall of the Brookhaven National Laboratory that would have shut down the operations of the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider for 2006.

Also in 2006 Simons donated $25 million to Stony Brook University through the Stony Brook Foundation.[24][25] The gift is intended to benefit the Mathematics and Physics departments at the university.

On February 27, 2008, then Gov. Eliot Spitzer announced a $60 million donation by the Simons Foundation to found the Simons Center for Geometry and Physics at Stony Brook, the largest gift to a public university in New York state history.[26]

In December 2008 it was reported that the Stony Brook University Foundation, of which Simons is chair emeritus,[27] lost $5.4 million in Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.[28]

On December 14, 2011, James and Marilyn Simons donated an additional $150 million to Stony Brook University. The donation was accepted on behalf of the university by Gov. Andrew Cuomo at a ceremony held on the Stony Brook campus. In return, the state pledged an addition $35 million to the university, and passed legislation giving major SUNY campuses considerably more autonomy and managerial flexibility. These funds have been designated for the construction of a new medical research center, for the endowment of 35 professorial chairs, and for a large number of student scholarships at both the graduate and undergraduate level.

On May 1, 2012, UC Berkeley announced that the Paul Simons Foundation donated $60 million in order to establish the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing at UC Berkeley.[29]

Autism research[edit]

The family's charitable foundation has committed $38 million to find the causes related to autism in recent years, and plans to spend another $100 million in what is becoming the largest private investment in the field of autism research. Simons personally exerts significant control over where and how his money is spent: Simons has provided DNA from his family for study, and has given assistance in helping solve research problems. When MIT asked for brain research funding, he stipulated that the project focus on autism and include scientists of his choosing.

On June 11, 2003, the Simons Foundation hosted its first "Panel on Autism Research" in New York City, a day-long event highlighting research into the causes of autism, the accurate genomic mapping of autism, and in the study of the biochemical mechanisms that occur in autistic people. Attendees included David Amaral, Eric Courchesne, Nathaniel Heintz, Thomas Insel, Catherine Lord, Fred Volkmar, and Paul Greengard. The Simons Foundation recently gave $10 million to two researchers at the Yale University Child Study Center to study genetic influences on autism. Much of this research has been supported by the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative, founded in 2006.

Political contributions[edit]

Simons is a major contributor to Democratic Party political action committees.[30]

Boardroom appointments[edit]

Simons serves as trustee of Brookhaven National Laboratory, the Institute for Advanced Study, Rockefeller University, the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley and a trustee of Stony Brook University.[31] He is also a member of the Board of the MIT Corporation.


In about 2009, Simons was questioned by investors.[32]

Simons and Madoff[edit]

Further information about Simons's dealings with Madoff is available.[33]


Simons earned an estimated $2.5 billion in 2008,[34] and with an estimated net worth of $12.5 billion,[1] he is ranked by Forbes as the 88th-richest person in the world[1] and the 27th-richest person in America.[1] He was named by the Financial Times in 2006 as "the world's smartest billionaire".[35]

In 2011 he was included in the 50 Most Influential ranking of Bloomberg Markets Magazine.

Simons owns a large motor yacht, aptly named 'Archimedes'. She was built at the Dutch yacht builder Royal Van Lent and delivered to Simons in 2008.[36]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Double Helix Medal

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Forbes: "The World's Billionaires: James Simons" March 2014
  2. ^ a b c Teitelbaum, Richard (January 2008). "The Code Breaker". Bloomberg Markets Magazine (Bloomberg LP). Retrieved 7 January 2010. 
  3. ^ "More Money than God". 
  4. ^ "RenTec's Jim Simons Retiring At End Of Year". Market Folly. October 8, 2009. Archived from the original on 2010-06-17. Retrieved 17 June 2012. 
  5. ^ "Seed Interview: James Simons". SEEDMAGAZINE.com. September 19, 2006. Retrieved 2013-07-23. 
  6. ^ "Renaissance Founder Simons, Computer Trading Pioneer, to Retire". Bloomberg. 2009-10-09. 
  7. ^ a b "The Jewish Billionaires of Forbes". Jspace.com. March 14, 2012. Retrieved 7 September 2013. 
  8. ^ "Facts About James Harris Simons". Retrieved 7 September 2013. 
  9. ^ Boston Globe: "Marcia (Kantor) Simons Obituary" retrieved March 31, 2013
  10. ^ Bloomberg: "Simons at Renaissance Cracks Code, Doubling Assets (Update1)" By Richard Teitelbaum November 27, 2007
  11. ^ a b http://www.iimagazine.com/Article.aspx?articleID=1028172&HideRelated=1&SearchResult=1
  12. ^ [1]
  13. ^ The Mathematics Genealogy Project – James Simons
  14. ^ Levy, Steven (2001). Crypto: secrecy and privacy in the new code war. Penguin. p. 356. ISBN 0-14-024432-8. 
  15. ^ Baker, Nathaniel (2005-06-24). "Renaissance Readies Long-Biased Strat". Institutional Investor. 
  16. ^ Zuckerman, Gregory (2005-07-01). "Renaissance's Man: James Simons Does The Math on Fund". The Wall Street Journal. pp. C1. Retrieved 2006-08-15. [dead link]
  17. ^ Andersen, Jenny (April 16, 2008). "Wall Street Winners Get Billion-Dollar Paydays". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 January 2010. 
  18. ^ Jenny Anderson and Julie Creswell (2007-04-24). "Make Less Than $240 Million? You're Off Top Hedge Fund List". New York Times. 
  19. ^ Shell, Adam (2006-05-26). "$363M is average pay for top hedge fund managers". USA Today. Retrieved 2006-08-15. 
  20. ^ "Top hedge fund manager had take-home pay of $1.5 billion in 2005 on 5% fee and 44% of gains". Finfacts.com. 2006-05-26. 
  21. ^ "Simons Foundation – Trustees". Simons Foundation. Retrieved 7 January 2010. 
  22. ^ Nepalnews.com Mercantile Connumications Pvt. Ltd
  23. ^ US family does Rs 380 m medi-bit for Nepal
  24. ^ Stony Brook University Receives $25 Million Donation | SBGradMag
  25. ^ Stony Brook Announces $25 Million Gift From Renowned Former Math Chair Jim Simons
  26. ^ Arenson, Karen W. (2008-02-27). "$60 Million Gift for Stony Brook". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-05. 
  27. ^ "Board of Trustees". Stony Brook University. Retrieved 25 July 2013. 
  28. ^ "Simons's Stony Brook University Fund Caught in Madoff Fraud". Bloomberg. 2008-12-16. 
  29. ^ Yang, Sarah (2012-05-01). "$60 million Simons Foundation grant to launch theory of computing institute". UC Berkeley News Center. Retrieved 2012-05-12. 
  30. ^ Who are the Super PACs’ Biggest Donors? By Al Shaw, ProPublica. Updated December 7, 2012
  31. ^ "Board of Trustees". Stony Brook University. Retrieved 3 Mar 2014. 
  32. ^ http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124235370437022507.html
  33. ^ http://www.zerohedge.com/article/there-more-meets-eye-rentec
  34. ^ Allstair, Barr (March 25, 2009). "Top managers' pay dropped 48% last year". MarketWatch. Retrieved 7 January 2010. 
  35. ^ "Alternative Rich List". FT.com. 2006-09-22. Retrieved 2007-11-08. 
  36. ^ "Superyacht Archimedes". SuperYachtFan. 
  37. ^ "Andrew Carnegies International Legacy". Retrieved 18 October 2013. 

External links[edit]