8 June 1930 |
Frankfurt am Main, Germany
|Nationality||Israel, United States|
|Institution||Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Stony Brook University
|Alma mater||Massachusetts Institute of Technology
City College of New York
|Influences||George Whitehead, Jr.|
|Awards||Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics, John von Neumann Theory Prize, Harvey Prize in Science and Technology, Israel Prize for Economical Research|
Robert John Aumann (Hebrew name: ישראל אומן, 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.
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.
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":
- 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 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.
In a speech to a religious Zionist 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 original 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 entered the controversy 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 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".
Personal life 
Aumann married Esther Schlesinger in April 1955 in Brooklyn. They had met in 1953 when Esther, who was from Israel, was visiting the United States. The couple had five children; the oldest, Shlomo, was killed in action in 1982, while serving in the Israeli Army in the 1982 Lebanon War. Esther died of ovarian cancer in October 1998. In late November 2005, Aumann married Esther's widowed sister, Batya Cohn.
Honours and awards 
- 1974: Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
- 1983: Harvey Prize in Science and Technology.
- 1994: Israel Prize for economics.
- 1998: Erwin Plein Nemmers Prize in Economics from 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: Yakir Yerushalayim (Worthy Citizen of Jerusalem) award from the city of Jerusalem.
- 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.
- Aumann, Robert J. (1976). "Agreeing to Disagree". The Annals of Statistics (Institute of Mathematical Statistics) 4 (6): 1236–1239. doi:10.1214/aos/1176343654. ISSN 0090-5364. JSTOR 2958591.
- Aumann, Robert (July 3, 2010). "Game Theory and negotiations with Arab countries.". Aish.com.
- http://fr.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1202246357040 http://www.eitam.org.il/info_en.asp?id=2062535187
- Aumann, R.H., H. Furstenberg, I. Lapides, and D. Witztum (July 2004). Analyses of the 'Gans' Committee Report (#365) (PDF). Center for the Study of Rationality, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Retrieved 2006-06-20.
- "Robert J. Aumann - Autobiography". Nobelprize.org.
- "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter A". American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 27 April 2011.
- "Israel Prize Official Site - Recipients in 1994 (in Hebrew)".
- Nemmers Prize Recipients Northwestern University
- "Recipients of Yakir Yerushalayim award (in Hebrew)". City of Jerusalem official website
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- His homepage
- Aumann Nobel Prize lecture
- His CV
- Robert Aumann at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
- 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)
- Nobel laureate seeks 'cure' for war
- Chris McGreal. 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).
- An accessible summary by Aumann of his work and thoughts on economics in the Talmud
See also