Talk:James Harris Simons

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Opening Remarks[edit]

Welcome to the talk page for James Harris Simons.

Jim Simons is a unique individual -- a world-class scientist, a seemingly boundless money-maker (perhaps the most successful in history), and a philanthropist with very specific goals and agendas. He is private, guarded, even secretive. Most of the material in this article has been gleaned from the little that has been reported about him on the Internet. He rarely gives interviews.

I am in no way an authority on Simons, and wish to avoid giving that impression.

My decision to write the ariticle is based on the following: He merits a thorough, well-written encyclopedic entry, and none yet existed; he is an interesting subject; his place in history is still "in development"; and Simons presents some unique challenges to the writer.

One challenge is to write about the mathematical ideas and theories accurately. This aspect of the article will receive special focus, attention and research by me over time, and of course I hope those with expertise will lend a hand. My end goal is that the cognoscenti will find the portion of the article well-written and meaningful.

-- Paul Klenk, Kew Gardens, Queens, August 16, 2005


Regarding this statement: "This resulted in his proof of the Bernstein conjecture," I am unaware that Simons himself actually wrote a "proof" of the Bernstein conjecture. Is there anything to support this? The way it was worded before merely indicated that, as a result of his theory, the conjecture became proved. Your thoughts?

paul klenk talk 06:42, 28 September 2005 (UTC)

My reference was [1]. This is not my area of speciality, but the paper claims that the result therein proves Bernstein's conjecture up through real dimension 8; in other words, the Bernstein conjecture is proved as a consequence of the more general results in this paper. The paper also mentions that there were previous results of Almgren that established the Bernstein conjecture in real dimension 5 (presumably in lower dimensions as well, but I don't know for sure about this point). Hope that helps. - Gauge 21:54, 2 October 2005 (UTC)
See also "History of the Plateau Problem" at [2]. Page 10 mentions Simons' extension of earlier results of Fleming. - Gauge 22:04, 2 October 2005 (UTC)
Also, Enrico Bombieri showed that Bernstein's conjecture is false for real dimension 9, so Simons' result was apparently one of the last steps in this program. See [3] - Gauge 22:17, 2 October 2005 (UTC)

Gauge, thanks for your excellent research. I may have over-complicated my question, which is simple:

  1. Did Jim Simons himself deliberately publish a proof of the conjecture, in which he says, "Here, see what I wrote... This is my proof of the conjecture," or...
  2. Did his theory result in another person coming along, looking at his paper, and saying, "See here, Simons' work touches on matters which are related to the Bernstein conjecture; if you apply his work, you can actually now prove it!"

Does this make sense? It's a simple matter of wording. Either he "did" the proof, or his work was used by someone else to do it. It may sound nit-picky, but in such a matter we want to be clear, so our readers know what we are telling them. paul klenk talk 22:21, 2 October 2005 (UTC)

In this sense, Simons himself realized that his work constituted a proof of the Bernstein conjecture — he says so right in the paper. The first possibility you mention above is the correct one. Hope that clears things up. - Gauge 05:22, 19 December 2005 (UTC)

The link Bernstein conjecture redirects to Bernstein's constant. That page states a conjecture by Bernstein and says that it was disproved by Varga and Carpenter, 1987. I don't see the connection. Is the redirect wrong? Penguian (talk) 10:21, 18 April 2008 (UTC)

It is most assuredly wrong. The Bernstein Conjecture that Simons worked on has nothing to do with the approximation of the absolute value function on [-1,1] by polynomials.
This is the Bernstein conjecture that in 1968 Simons proved true through dimension n = 8:
"Let f:Rn-1 → R be a smooth (i.e., C) function whose graph S is a minimal surface in Rn. Then (conjecturally) S is a linear subspace of Rn."
Simons also proposed possible counterexamples, in half of all higher dimensions, that were in 1969 proved correct by Bombieri, deGiorgi, and Giusti; together with further results in their paper, the Bernstein Conjecture was shown to fail for all n ≥ 9.Daqu (talk) 02:02, 13 May 2009 (UTC)
I have changed the link to direct to the page for "Bernstein's Problem" which refers to the correct conjecture. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:27, 28 March 2011 (UTC)


I had added a small comment to the article about Simons work on the Lucifer cipher which was a direct predecessor to DES. This information comes from direct interviews with Simons in Steven Levy's book Crypto. Kupojsin (talk) 01:52, 4 August 2011 (UTC)

Unique streak[edit]

The section Unique Streak is unsourced, approaches libel, and should be removed. JFW | T@lk 12:36, 18 December 2005 (UTC)

Earning in 2005[edit]

Traders Monthly says he earned $0.9-1.0 billion in 2005, while Institutional Investor says he earned $1.5 billion. Shawnc 01:03, 28 May 2006 (UTC)


He's tagged as Category:1921_births, but the text says he received his bachelors in 1958 and then his Ph.D at age 23. That would mean he's a 1935 birth or later (probably more like 1938-40). What's correct?

The March 2007 Forbes blurb on him[4] says he is 69 so I'm guessing 1938. Between the Forbes source and whatever source says his Ph.D. was at age 23, it is very doubtful he was a 1921 birth so I'm removing that category (it was added at this point). --Georgeryp 03:51, 2 May 2007 (UTC)

Mathematician or physicist?[edit]

Wouldn't Simons be better described as a mathematician rather than a mathematical physicist? His work with Chern, e.g., was a project in pure mathematics, carried out before there was any idea of its applications in string theory. Ishboyfay 18:22, 27 April 2007 (UTC)

Benjamin quote[edit]

We quote First Post (who they?) quoting Simons quoting Animal Farm. So there's quite a long chain there. But I can't imagine that Orwell would ever have written "rather of". Not sure whether just a "[sic]" would be appropriate or what, but I am sure there is something wrong somewhere. Telsa (talk) 08:32, 17 June 2007 (UTC)

I think it's obvious they're quoting Simons' as he paraphrases the Orwell quote. paul klenk talk 17:03, 24 October 2009 (UTC)


Is it really NPOV to say that Renaissance has employees from 'countries as diverse as Cuba and Japan'? Especially considering that one is the US' main trading partner and the other an island just off the mainland. <sarcasm>How about adding "and employs age groups as diverse as 25 to 40"?</sarcasm> 16:32, 19 August 2007 (UTC)


I've uploaded a photo I took of Simons giving a lecture at MSRI last May. I believe it's licensed appropriately for use in this page. Gleuschk (talk) 14:32, 20 January 2008 (UTC)

2 Ph.D's?[edit]

Is this article claiming that Simons has 2 Ph.D's, or that he has 1 Ph.D in Math&Literature? The first would be very surprising and the second cannot be true. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:52, 10 January 2009 (UTC)

Stocks traded[edit]

Anyone know an article or information on what stocks he shorted to make that much in 2008? —Preceding unsigned comment added by Ericg33 (talkcontribs) 18:15, 25 March 2009 (UTC)


Simons' earnings in 2007 are given variously as $2.8 and $1.7 billion. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:19, 6 October 2009 (UTC)


Gregory Zuckerman, James Harris Simons and Edward Witten might possibly tell us how clever Bernie Madoff is. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:11, 6 October 2009 (UTC) See Bernard Madoff. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:49, 7 December 2009 (UTC)

The Bloomberg article has 1993, not 1991, for the start of Stony Brook's investment in Madoff. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:44, 11 November 2010 (UTC)
The amount lost by the Simons family foundation to Madoff can not be easily ascertained. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:26, 15 December 2010 (UTC)
It seems to be about $5,000,000 but this is a wild guess. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:28, 5 January 2011 (UTC)
I would say "wild guess" is exactly what "not easily ascertained" means. Kupojsin (talk) 01:46, 4 August 2011 (UTC)

Paragraph on "Nova Fund" doesn't match the citation[edit]

The following paragraph does not match its citation: "Observers have been wondering how Renaissance's in-house Medallion Fund has managed to continue to outperform the stock market handily while funds open to outside investors have performed miserably. The violation could be related to the Nova Fund, a hedge fund that had very high returns which was mysteriously subsumed by the internal Medallion Fund."

The citation is a Wall Street Journal article entitled, "Simons Questioned by Investors". This article makes no mention of a "Nova Fund" and instead states that RIEF holds US equities for a long-term holding whereas the Medallion Fund is a global short-term fund. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:15, 22 January 2012 (UTC)

I agree; I think the paragraph in question should either be removed or rewritten to stick to the sources. I think the tone (words like "handily", "miserably", "violation", "mysteriously") improperly suggest malfeasance and violate neutrality. Also, I just removed the paragraph that came afterwards, where the reference given did not support any of the claims made.

User:Declaration1776 16:46, 23 July 2013 (UTC)


Early leftist ideas could be mentioned. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:34, 24 April 2012 (UTC)

Alleged libel action[edit]

Simons is already free to sue the sources and has not done so. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:59, 23 August 2013 (UTC)

Simons has had four years to sue the Wall Street Journal. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:04, 23 August 2013 (UTC)
Simons has had ample time to sue the others for libel. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:14, 23 August 2013 (UTC)

Net Worth update[edit]

Potential COI disclosure: I work at the Simons Foundation (talk page) and all suggestions are made with the goal of improving accuracy.

The summary box states that James Simons' net worth is $11.7 billion, citing an article from March 2013. There are two spots in the article that still have his net worth at an outdated number (1) 2nd paragraph, (2) under the "Wealth" section, even though they all point to a Forbes profile on Simons. The Forbes profile is now updated to $12 billion as of September 2013.

I also suggest adding his wife's name in the third paragraph, to clarify. Suggested change: "Simons lives with his wife, Marilyn Hawrys Simons, in Manhattan..."

--Ljung123 (talk) 17:00, 10 January 2014 (UTC)

Yes check.svg Done I updated the net worth, as well as the cite. I did not add the reference to his wife. She is mentioned as a co-recipient of an award, I didn't feel the gratuitous mention of their residence was appropriate. See below--S Philbrick(Talk) 15:56, 3 March 2014 (UTC)

Philanthropy section - Foundation mixups[edit]

Potential COI disclosure: I work at the Simons Foundation (talk page) and all suggestions are made with the goal of improving accuracy.

I propose deleting the first sentence, which I think is obvious and unnecessary (but I understand if you'd like to debate that), and deleting the "Quant King" nickname because it makes little sense in this section. There are also some errors in the rest of the section. These paragraphs refer to three separate foundations (Simons Foundation, Paul Simons Foundation, Nick Simons Foundation) but they are currently compounded into two. I suggest the below separations:

Simons is a benefactor for the mathematical and basic sciences, supporting research projects, chairs, and conferences in the United States and abroad[1] . Almost all this philathropic work has been accomplished through the Simons Foundation, which he co-founded in 1994 with his wife, Marilyn H. Simons. The Simons Foundation is a charitable organization that supports basic scientific research.[2] Marilyn serves as the foundation's President and CEO, while Jim serves as its Chairman.[2]

In memory of his son Paul, whom he had with his first wife, Barbara Simons, he and Marilyn co-founded the Paul Simons Foundation to establish and support Avalon Park, a 130-acre (0.53 km2) nature preserve in Stony Brook.[3] In 1996, 34-year-old Paul was killed by a car while riding a bicycle near the Simons home.

Jim and Marilyn’s son Nick Simons, drowned at age 24 while on a trip to Bali in Indonesia in 2003.[10] Nick had worked in Nepal and consequently the Simons have become donors to Nepalese healthcare, together founding the Nick Simons Foundation and Nick Simons Institute.[21][22]

Notes: I wanted to clarify the difference between the Simons Foundation and the Paul Simons Foundation. I couldn't access links 21 or 22 for the Nick Simons Foundation, but found this reference instead, if that helps.[4] And then I suggest keeping Math for America a separate paragraph.

-- Ljung123 (talk) 17:01, 10 January 2014 (UTC)

Awards section[edit]

Potential COI disclosure: I work at the Simons Foundation (talk page) and all suggestions are made with the goal of improving accuracy.

My suggestions based on inclusion of other facts in the article:
1. 1976: Oswald Veblen Prize[5]
2. 1992: Stony Brook Univerity, honorary degree[6]
3. 2008: CSHL Double Helix Medal Honoree; Co-recipient with his wife, Marilyn
4. 2010: Carnegie Mellon, honorary degree [7]
5. 2011: Cold Spring Harbor Lab, honorary degree[8]
6. 2013: The Rockefeller University, honorary degree; Co-recipient with his wife, Marilyn[9]
7. 2013: Andrew Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy[10] ; Co-recipient with his wife, Marilyn

  1. 3 and #7 have existing links/refs that are fine.

--Ljung123 (talk) 21:08, 9 January 2014 (UTC)

Some good advice about awards here. The provided sources do not appear to meet the sourcing requirements for inclusion. CorporateM (Talk) 18:07, 24 May 2014 (UTC)

Boardroom appointments section[edit]

Potential COI disclosure: I work at the Simons Foundation (talk page) and all suggestions are made with the goal of improving accuracy.

I suggest adding "…and a trustee of Stony Brook University." to the end of this section.


Ljung123 (talk) 20:43, 9 January 2014 (UTC)

Yes check.svg Done--S Philbrick(Talk) 16:01, 3 March 2014 (UTC)

Business Career[edit]

Potential COI disclosure: I work at the Simons Foundation (talk page) and all suggestions are made with the goal of improving accuracy.

In the 2nd paragraph, the second line is unclear and unlinear. I propose changing the paragraph to read:

The firm's first and most well-known fund is the Medallion fund, now owned exclusively by firm employees and executives. Subsequently, the firm launched a set of institutional funds: Renaissance Institutional Equities Fund (RIEF),[14] Renaissance Institutional Futures Fund (RIFF) and Renaissance Institutional Diversified Alpha (RIDA), which are all technically driven, but focused on different investment areas.

Reference for last line:

-- Ljung123 (talk) 21:06, 9 January 2014 (UTC)

Stony Brook University[edit]

Potential COI disclosure: I work at the Simons Foundation (talk page) and all suggestions are made with the goal of improving accuracy.

I am proposing several clarifications regarding Simons' philanthropy to Stony Brook.

1. The first paragraph in the philanthropy section to mention Stony Brook - states "Also in 2006 Simons donated $25 million to..." This donation was actually made through the Simons Foundation, not Simons himself. Proposed edit: "Also in 2006 the Simons Foundation donated $25 million to Stony Brook University through the Stony Brook Foundation."


2. The paragraph following refers to the founding of the Simons Center for Geometry and Physics as "the largest gift to a public university in New York state history." Proposed update to “… in New York State history at that time.”

3. Regarding the $150 million grant to Stony Brook University - In order to present the distinctions within the grant itself, here is the proposed edit:

On December 14, 2011, James and Marilyn Simons personally donated an additional $100 million, and the Simons Foundation a $50 million challenge grant, 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. At that time, the state pledged an additional $35 million in matching funds to the university, and had recently passed legislation giving SUNY campuses a rationally-structured tuition policy and more autinomy and mangerial flexibility. The Simons’ and the Foundation gifts 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.
i. The Simons Foundation’s Challenge Grant:
ii. This article explains the $100 million personal grant, the $50 million foundation challenge grant, and the $35 million State grant. It also mentions the medical research center:

-- Ljung123 (talk) 21:21, 9 January 2014 (UTC)

Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing[edit]

Potential COI disclosure: I work at the Simons Foundation (talk page) and all suggestions are made with the goal of improving accuracy.

Regarding the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing: funding was from Simons Foundation and not Paul Simons Foundation. Is a reference needed? This mistake was carried over from the earlier confusion between the Simons Foundation and the Paul Simons Foundation.

--Ljung123 (talk) 16:15, 10 January 2014 (UTC)

No new sources are needed for this, because the pre-existing citation used has the correction information (Simons Foundation), while the article-text incorrectly says Paul Simons Foundation. CorporateM (Talk) 18:16, 24 May 2014 (UTC)

Brookhaven National Laboratory[edit]

Potential COI disclosure: I work at the Simons Foundation (talk page) and all suggestions are made with the goal of improving accuracy.

Regarding Brookhaven National Laboratory, the wiki article says that Simons "led a group of directors Renaissance Technologies Corporation..." It was actually a group of employees and executives, not directors. Reference:

Can we also change “donating $13 million to fund a budget shortfall…” to “… donating $13 million to compensate for a budget shortfall..." This is a grammar request, not an accuracy request.

--Ljung123 (talk) 16:58, 10 January 2014 (UTC)

Yes check.svg Done (by someone else)--S Philbrick(Talk) 17:00, 3 March 2014 (UTC)

Early Life edit[edit]

Potential COI disclosure: I work at the Simons Foundation (talk page) and all suggestions are made with the goal of improving accuracy.

In the first paragraph under "Early life and career" it says that Simons' father owned a shoe factory. This is incorrect, and was incorrectly reported in the reference article. Mr. Simons has clarified this as the following:

His father worked for 20th Century Fox, eventually becoming New England sales manager before leaving to work at his father-in-law’s shoe factory.
Unfortunately we have a Verification not truth policy. What you need to do is seek a correction with the publication, or provide an alternative source with the accurate information. CorporateM (Talk) 18:11, 24 May 2014 (UTC)

Summary suggestion[edit]

Potential COI disclosure: I work at the Simons Foundation (talk page) and all suggestions are made with the goal of improving accuracy.

I suggest adding the name of his wife to the 3rd paragraph in the overall summary section so that it reads as below, to clarify current situation.

Simons lives with his wife Marilyn H. Simons in Manhattan...
Yes check.svg Done When I saw the request above, I thought you were suggesting the third section, not the third paragraph of the lede. I didn't make that change as it didn't seem warranted. Should Long Island be removed, or retained? After reading source, clear it should be retained, unless it is no longer true.--S Philbrick(Talk) 16:56, 3 March 2014 (UTC)

Autism Research section[edit]

Potential COI disclosure: I work at the Simons Foundation (talk page) and all suggestions are made with the goal of improving accuracy.

Suggestion to edit the Autism Research section. The below expands the section to 3 paragraphs. I have left my comments below each paragraph indented and italicized.

On June 11, 2003, the Simons Foundation hosted a panel to survey the current status of autism research in New York City. The event was attended by David Amaral, Eric Courchesne, Nathaniel Heintz, Thomas Insel, Catherine Lord, Fred Volkmar and chaired by Paul Greengard. The principal conclusions reached that day were that autism is highly genetic, the concordance between identical twins being 80%; and, second, that the overall quality of researchers in the field should be at a higher level. Therefore the Simons’ early giving focused on genetics research and on attracting more accomplished investigators to autism research.

Reordered this paragraph first for timeline accuracy. The specific grant amounts (such as with the mention of the Yale Child Study Center) become outdated quickly, so we suggest removing them, and relying on overall grant numbers in the next paragraph. The original author wrote this without references, we are trying to clarify the notes already mentioned here.

The Simons Foundation now gives $60 million per year to investigate the causes of autism, the largest private investment to date in the field of autism research. Simons is personally involved with where and how his philanthropic money is spent and has provided DNA from his family for study. When MIT asked for autism research funding, the foundation participated in the selection of scientists for the project.

Annual grant numbers updated. Reference here:

In 2005, to formalize and further establish their autism research program, the foundation brought in Gerald D. Fischbach, M.D., former dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences at Columbia University, to lead it. Since that time, the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI) has grown to its current size.

Addition, not change - We want to make sure to provide objective background on how SFARI was brought to its current state, under the leadership of Gerald Fischbach. Reference:
These are primary sources from the Foundation itself, however we require credible, independent sources. CorporateM (Talk) 18:10, 24 May 2014 (UTC)

Further information[edit]

Further information about Simons and Madoff is available at zerohedge. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:48, 29 April 2014 (UTC)

See "Rentec" at the search machine at zerohedge. This gives several articles. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:38, 1 May 2014 (UTC)

Primary sources[edit]

Per WP:PRIMARY, primary sources aren't banned, but their use is restricted. "A primary source may only be used on Wikipedia to make straightforward, descriptive statements of facts that can be verified by any educated person with access to the primary source but without further, specialized knowledge....Do not analyze, synthesize, interpret, or evaluate material found in a primary source yourself; instead, refer to reliable secondary sources that do so." By that standard, some of the recent cuts could be restored. For example, this link to the Carnegie awards is, IMO, sufficient to establish that James and Marilyn Simons were recipients. The website is indeed a primary source, but no interpretation needed to verify the fact. Barte (talk) 00:15, 28 May 2014 (UTC)

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