Jim Simons (mathematician)

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Jim Simons
James Simons 2007.jpg
Simons in 2007
Born (1938-04-25) April 25, 1938 (age 82)
EducationUniversity of California, Berkeley (PhD)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (BS)
Known for
Net worthUS$23.0 billion (July 2020)[1]
m. 1959; div. 1974)

Marilyn Hawrys Simons[2]
Children5,[2] including Nat Simons
AwardsOswald Veblen Prize (1976)[3]

James Harris Simons (/ˈsmənz/; born 25 April 1938) is an American mathematician, billionaire hedge fund manager, and philanthropist.[4] He is the founder of Renaissance Technologies, a hedge fund based in Setauket-East Setauket, New York, where he served in various leadership capacities from 1982 to 2010. He and his fund are known to be quantitative investors, using mathematical models and algorithms to make investment gains from market inefficiencies. Due to the long-term aggregate investment returns of Renaissance and its Medallion Fund, Simons has been described as one of the "greatest investors of all time".[5][6] As reported by Forbes, his net worth as of July 2020 is estimated to be US$23.0 billion, the 21st-richest person in the US.[1]

Outside of finance, Simons is known for his studies on pattern recognition. He developed the Chern–Simons form (with Shiing-Shen Chern), and contributed to the development of string theory by providing a theoretical framework to combine geometry and topology with quantum field theory.[7][8] From 1968 to 1978, Simons was a mathematics professor and chairman of the mathematics department at Stony Brook University.[9][10] In 1994, Simons founded the Simons Foundation with his wife to support researches in mathematics and fundamental sciences. He is one of the biggest donors to the University of California, Berkeley's Mathematical Sciences Research Institute where he also serves as a member of Board of Trustees, and established the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing at Berkeley in 2012.[11][12]

In 2016, asteroid 6618 Jimsimons, discovered by Clyde Tombaugh in 1936, was named after Simons by the International Astronomical Union in honor of his contributions to mathematics and philanthropy.[13]

Early life and education[edit]

James Harris Simons was born on April 25, 1938[14][15] to an American Jewish family,[16] the only child of Marcia (née Kantor)[17] and Matthew Simons, and raised in Brookline, Massachusetts.[18] His father owned a shoe factory, and his mother was a distant relation of Georg Cantor.[19] When James Simons was a teenager, he worked a job in the basement stockroom of a garden supply store. His inefficiency at the job resulted in his demotion to a floor sweeper.[20] He received a bachelor's degree in mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1958[21] and a PhD, also in mathematics, from the University of California, Berkeley, under supervision of Bertram Kostant in 1961, at the age of 23.[21]

Academic and scientific career[edit]

Simons' mathematical work has primarily focused on the geometry and topology of manifolds. His 1962 Berkeley PhD thesis, written under the direction of Bertram Kostant, gave a new proof of Berger's classification of the holonomy groups of Riemannian manifolds. He subsequently began to work with Shing-Shen Chern on the theory of characteristic classes, eventually discovering the Chern–Simons secondary characteristic classes of 3-manifolds. Later, a mathematical physicist Albert Schwarz discovered early topological quantum field theory which is an application of the Chern–Simons form. It is also related to the Yang-Mills functional on 4-manifolds, and has had an effect on modern physics. These and other contributions to geometry and topology led to Simons becoming the 1976 recipient of the AMS Oswald Veblen Prize in Geometry.[22] In 2014, he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences of the USA.[23]

In 1964, Simons worked with the National Security Agency to break codes.[24] Between 1964 and 1968, he was on the research staff of the Communications Research Division of the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) and taught mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, ultimately joining the faculty at Stony Brook University. From 1968 to 1978, he was appointed chairman of the math department at Stony Brook University.[9] Simons was asked by IBM in 1973 to attack the block cipher Lucifer, an early but direct precursor to the Data Encryption Standard (DES).[25] Simons founded Math for America, a nonprofit organization, in January 2004 with a mission to improve mathematics education in United States public schools by recruiting more highly qualified teachers.[26]

Investment career[edit]

Renaissance Technologies[edit]

External video
Jim Simons at MSRI.jpg
A Rare Interview with the Mathematician Who Cracked Wall Street, 23:03, TED Talks[27]
The Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy Ceremony – 17th October 2013, 1:31:40 (Simons section at 52:00–1:05:30), Scottish Parliament[28]

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 financial instruments. These models are based on analyzing as much data as can be gathered, then looking for non-random movements to make predictions.

Medallion, the main fund which is closed to outside investors, has earned over $100 billion in trading profits since its inception in 1988. This translates to a 66.1% gross return or a 39.1% average net return between 1988 - 2018.[29] Renaissance Technologies manages three other funds - Renaissance Institutional Equities Fund (RIEF), Renaissance Institutional Diversified Alpha (RIDA) and Renaissance Institutional Diversified Global Equity Fund - which, as of April 2019, totalled approximately $55 billion in combined assets and were open to outside investors.[29]

Renaissance employs 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).[30] RIEF has historically trailed the firm's better-known Medallion fund, a separate fund that contains only the personal money of the firm's executives.[31]

"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, New Jersey and considered by many of his peers to be the most accomplished theoretical physicist alive.[32]

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,[33] $1.7 billion in 2006,[34] $1.5 billion in 2005[35] (the largest compensation among hedge fund managers that year),[36] and $670 million in 2004. On October 10, 2009, Simons announced he would retire on January 1, 2010 but remain at Renaissance as nonexecutive chairman.[37]

Personal life[edit]

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."[38]

In 1996, his son Paul, aged 34, was riding a bicycle, when he was killed by a car on Long Island.[24] In 2003, his son Nicholas, aged 24, drowned on a trip to Bali, Indonesia. His son Nat Simons is an investor and philanthropist.[39]

Political and economic views[edit]

Simons is a major contributor to Democratic Party political action committees. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Simons was ranked the #5 donor to federal candidates in the 2016 election cycle, coming behind co-CEO Robert Mercer, who ranked #1 and generally donates to Republicans.[40] Simons has donated $7 million to Hillary Clinton's Priorities USA Action,[41] $2.6 million to the House and Senate Majority PACs, and $500,000 to EMILY's List.[40] He also donated $25,000 to Republican Senator Lindsey Graham's super PAC.[40] Since 2006 Simons has contributed about $30.6 million to federal campaigns.[40] Since 1990, Renaissance Technologies has contributed $59,081,152 to federal campaigns and since 2001, has spent $3,730,000 on lobbying as of 2016.[42]


According to The Wall Street Journal in May 2009, Simons was questioned by investors on the dramatic performance gap of Renaissance Technologies' portfolios. The Medallion Fund, which has been available exclusively to current and past employees and their families, surged 80% in 2008 in spite of hefty fees; the Renaissance Institutional Equities Fund (RIEF), owned by outsiders, lost money in both 2008 and 2009; RIEF declined 16% in 2008.[43]

On July 22, 2014, Simons was subject to bipartisan condemnation by the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations for the use of complex basket options to shield day-to-day trading (usually subject to higher ordinary income tax rates) as long-term capital gains. "Renaissance Technologies was able to avoid paying more than $6 billion in taxes by disguising its day-to-day stock trades as long term investments," said Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.), the committee's ranking Republican, in his opening statement.[44]

An article published in The New York Times in 2015 said that Simons was involved in one of the biggest tax battles of the year, with Renaissance Technologies being "under review by the I.R.S. over a loophole that saved their fund an estimated $6.8 billion in taxes over roughly a decade."[45]


In 2014, Simons reportedly earned US$1.2 billion including a share of his firm's management and performance fees, cash compensation and stock and option awards.[46] According to Forbes magazine Simons had a net worth of $18 billion in 2017, making him #24 on the Forbes 400 richest people list.[47] In 2018, he was ranked 23rd by Forbes,[48] and in October 2019, his net worth was estimated to be $21.6 billion.[49] In March 2019, he was named one of the highest-earning hedge fund managers and traders by Forbes.[50]

Simons owns a motor yacht, named Archimedes. It was built at the Dutch yacht builder Royal Van Lent and delivered to Simons in 2008.[51]


Simons and his second wife, Marilyn Hawrys Simons, co-founded the Simons Foundation in 1994, a charitable organization that supports projects related to education and health, in addition to scientific research.[2] The Simons Foundation established the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI) in 2003 as a scientific initiative within the Simons Foundation's suite of programs. SFARI's mission is to improve the understanding, diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders.[52]

In 2004, Simons founded Math for America with an initial pledge of $25 million from the Simons Foundation, a pledge he later doubled in 2006.[53]

Through the foundation, Simons has been a major benefactor of the University of California, Berkeley. On July 1, 2012, the Simons Foundation provided a $60 million grant to Berkeley to establish the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing, the world's leading institute for collaborative research in theoretical computer science.[54] The foundation has also made other major gifts to Berkeley, notably to its Mathematical Sciences Research Institute.[55][56]

The Simons Foundation established the Flatiron Institute in 2016, to house 4 groups of computational scientists (each with 60 or more PhD level researchers). The institute consists of four cores or departments: CCB (the center for computational biology), CCA (Center for Computational Astrophysics), CCQ (Center for Computational Quantum mechanics), and CCM (Center for Computational Mathematics). The new institute is located in Manhattan and represents a major investment in basic computational science.

Via the foundation, Simons and his wife funded the renovation of the building housing the mathematics department at MIT, which in 2016 was named after the two of them.[57]

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 driver 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. Nick had worked in Nepal. The Simons have become large donors to Nepalese healthcare through the Nick Simons Institute.[58][59]

In 2006, Simons donated $25 million to Stony Brook University through the Stony Brook Foundation, the largest donation ever to a State University of New York school at the time.[60] 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.[61]

Legacy and awards[edit]

In 2008, he was inducted into Institutional Investors Alpha's Hedge Fund Manager Hall of Fame along with Alfred Jones, Bruce Kovner, David Swensen, George Soros, Jack Nash, Julian Roberston, Kenneth Griffin, Leon Levy, Louis Bacon, Michael Steinhardt, Paul Tudor Jones, Seth Klarman and Steven A. Cohen.[62]

He was named by the Financial Times in 2006 as "the world's smartest billionaire".[63] In 2011, he was included in the 50 Most Influential ranking of Bloomberg Markets Magazine.[64]

A book about Simons and his investing methods, The Man Who Solved the Market: How Jim Simons Launched the Quant Revolution by Gregory Zuckerman was released November 5, 2019.[65] In 2018, Trinity College Dublin awarded him with an honorary doctorate.[66]

Publications and works[edit]

  • Simons, J. (August 1967). "Minimal Cones, Plateau's Problem, and the Bernstein Conjecture". Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 58 (2): 410–411. doi:10.1073/pnas.58.2.410. PMC 335649. PMID 16578656.
  • Chern, S.-S.; Simons, J. (April 1971). "Some Cohomology Classes in Principal Fiber Bundles and Their Application to Riemannian Geometry". Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 68 (4): 791–794. doi:10.1073/pnas.68.4.791. PMC 389044. PMID 16591916.
  • with Jean-Pierre Bourguignon and H. Blaine Lawson: Bourguignon, J.-P.; Lawson, H. B.; Simons, J. (April 1979). "Stability and gap phenomena for Yang-Mills fields". Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 76 (4): 1550–1553. doi:10.1073/pnas.76.4.1550. PMC 383426. PMID 16592637.
  • Simons, James (July 1968). "Minimal Varieties in Riemannian Manifolds". Annals of Mathematics. 88 (1): 62–105. doi:10.2307/1970556. hdl:10338.dmlcz/144360. JSTOR 1970556.
  • Chern, Shiing-Shen; Simons, James (January 1974). "Characteristic forms and geometric invariants". Annals of Mathematics. 99 (1): 48–69. doi:10.2307/1971013. JSTOR 1971013.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Forbes profile: Jim Simons". Forbes. Retrieved July 25, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c Teitelbaum, Richard (January 2008). "The Code Breaker". Bloomberg Markets Magazine. Bloomberg LP. Archived from the original on February 6, 2009. Retrieved January 7, 2010.
  3. ^ "A Billionaire Mathematician's Life of Ferocious Curiosity". The New York Times. Retrieved November 11, 2017.
  4. ^ "Jim Simons". Forbes.
  5. ^ Stevens, Pippa (November 5, 2019). "The secret behind the greatest modern day moneymaker on Wall Street: Remove all emotion". CNBC. Retrieved May 11, 2020.
  6. ^ Zuckerman, Gregory (November 2, 2019). "The Making of the World's Greatest Investor" (Hedge Funds). United States: Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company Inc. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved November 7, 2019.
  7. ^ "More Money than God".
  8. ^ "Remarks on Chern-Simon Theory" (PDF). American Mathematical Society. January 15, 2009. Retrieved March 31, 2016.
  9. ^ a b "Simons Foundation Chair Jim Simons on His Career in Mathematics | Simons Foundation". www.simonsfoundation.org. Retrieved May 11, 2017.
  10. ^ Pérez-peña, Richard (December 13, 2011). "Stony Brook University Given $150 Million". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 11, 2017.
  11. ^ MSRI. "Mathematical Sciences Research Institute". www.msri.org. Retrieved August 16, 2019.
  12. ^ "About". Simons Foundation. Retrieved August 16, 2019.
  13. ^ IAU Minor Planet Center
  14. ^ "Bloomberg Billionaires Index – Jim Simons". Retrieved February 25, 2018 – via www.bloomberg.com.
  15. ^ "RENAISSANCE INSTITUTIONAL MANAGEMENT (UK) LIMITED". Companies House. Retrieved November 26, 2017.
  16. ^ "The Jewish Billionaires of Forbes". jspace.com. March 14, 2012. Archived from the original on March 28, 2012. Retrieved September 7, 2013.
  17. ^ Boston Globe: "Marcia (Kantor) Simons Obituary" retrieved March 31, 2013.
  18. ^ Bloomberg: "Simons at Renaissance Cracks Code, Doubling Assets (Update1)" By Richard Teitelbaum November 27, 2007
  19. ^ "The Secret World of Jim Simons". iimagazine.com.
  20. ^ ""World's Smartest Billionaire:" James Simons is Cal Alumnus of the Year for 2016". Cal Alumni Association. March 29, 2016. Retrieved February 10, 2019.
  21. ^ a b "James Simons". Mathematics Genealogy Project. AMS. Retrieved August 8, 2014.
  22. ^ "Browse Prizes and Awards". American Mathematical Society. Retrieved May 10, 2020. |archive-url= is malformed: save command (help)
  23. ^ "James H. Simons Elected to the National Academy of Sciences – Stony Brook University Newsroom". stonybrook.edu.
  24. ^ a b Broad, William (July 7, 2014). "Seeker, Doer, Giver, Ponderer: A Billionaire Mathematician's Life of Ferocious Curiosity". New York Times.
  25. ^ Levy, Steven (2001). Crypto: secrecy and privacy in the new code war. Penguin. pp. 356. ISBN 0-14-024432-8.
  26. ^ Teitelbaum, Richard (November 27, 2007). "Simons at Renaissance Cracks Code, Doubling Assets". Bloomberg News. Archived from the original on October 20, 2012.
  27. ^ "A Rare Interview with the Mathematician Who Cracked Wall Street". TED (conference). March 2015. Retrieved September 26, 2015.
  28. ^ "Carnegie Medals of Philanthropy presented at the Scottish Parliament". The Scottish Parliament. October 2013. Retrieved September 26, 2015.
  29. ^ a b Zuckerman, Gregory (2019). The Man Who Solved the Market: How Jim Simons Launched the Quant Revolution. Penguin. pp. Appendix| pgs. 331–332. ISBN 9780735217980.
  30. ^ Baker, Nathaniel (June 24, 2005). "Renaissance Readies Long-Biased Strat". Institutional Investor.[permanent dead link]
  31. ^ Zuckerman, Gregory (July 1, 2005). "Renaissance's Man: James Simons Does The Math on Fund". The Wall Street Journal. pp. C1. Retrieved August 6, 2015.
  32. ^ Zuckerman, Gregory (July 1, 2005). "Renaissance's Man: James Simons Does The Math on Fund". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved May 10, 2020.
  33. ^ Andersen, Jenny (April 16, 2008). "Wall Street Winners Get Billion-Dollar Paydays". The New York Times. Retrieved January 7, 2010.
  34. ^ Jenny Anderson and Julie Creswell (April 24, 2007). "Make Less Than $240 Million? You're Off Top Hedge Fund List". The New York Times.
  35. ^ Shell, Adam (May 26, 2006). "$363M is average pay for top hedge fund managers". USA Today. Retrieved August 15, 2006.
  36. ^ "Top hedge fund manager had take-home pay of $1.5 billion in 2005 on 5% fee and 44% of gains". Finfacts.com. May 26, 2006.
  37. ^ "Renaissance Founder Simons, Computer Trading Pioneer, to Retire". Bloomberg. October 9, 2009. Archived from the original on March 21, 2010.
  38. ^ "Seed Interview: James Simons". Seed. September 19, 2006. Retrieved July 23, 2013.
  39. ^ "The Quiet Hedge Fund Heir Who's Engaged in Massive Climate Giving". Inside Philanthropy. Retrieved November 11, 2017.
  40. ^ a b c d Bowers, John (June 7, 2016). "A hedge fund house divided: Renaissance Technologies". OpenSecrets Blog. Center for Responsive Politics. Retrieved June 9, 2016.
  41. ^ Who are the Super PACs' Biggest Donors? By Al Shaw, ProPublica. Updated December 7, 2012
  42. ^ "Organizations: Renaissance Technologies". OpenSecrets.org. Center for Responsive Politics. Retrieved June 9, 2016.
  43. ^ Pulliam, Susan; Strasburg, Jenny (May 15, 2009). "Simons Questioned by Investors: Disparity Is Seen in Running of Two Renaissance Funds". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved December 29, 2015.
  44. ^ "Hearings | Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee". HSGAC.Senate.gov.
  45. ^ Scheiber, Noam; Cohendec, Patricia (December 29, 2015). "For the Wealthiest, a Private Tax System That Saves Them Billions". The New York Times. Retrieved December 29, 2015.
  46. ^ H. Kent Baker; Greg Filbeck (July 26, 2017). Hedge Funds: Structure, Strategies, and Performance. Oxford University Press. pp. 52–. ISBN 978-0-19-060739-5.
  47. ^ "James Simons". Forbes. Retrieved February 19, 2017.
  48. ^ "Forbes 400 2018". Forbes. Retrieved April 3, 2019.
  49. ^ Forbes: "The World's Billionaires: Jim Simons" October 2019
  50. ^ Vardi, Nathan. "The Highest-Earning Hedge Fund Managers And Traders". Forbes.
  51. ^ "Superyacht Archimedes". SuperYachtFan.
  52. ^ "About SFARI". SFARI.org. SFARI. Retrieved December 18, 2016.
  53. ^ Roekbe, Joshua (September 19, 2006). "Putting his money where his math is". Seed. Retrieved March 4, 2015.
  54. ^ Markoff, John (April 30, 2012). "California Chosen as Home for Computing Institute". New York Times.
  55. ^ "Berkeley – $10 million donated to math institute". San Francisco Chronicle. May 6, 2007.
  56. ^ Scientific American. "Hunt for Big Bang Gravitational Waves Gets $40-Million Boost". scientificamerican.com. Retrieved March 5, 2017.
  57. ^ "MIT names historic Building 2, home of mathematics, in honor of James '58 and Marilyn Simons". MIT News. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. March 30, 2016. Retrieved June 24, 2016.
  58. ^ "Nepalnews Mercantile Communications Pvt. Ltd". nepalnews.com. Retrieved November 11, 2017.[permanent dead link]
  59. ^ NSI Nick Simons Institute. "NICK: NSI Nick Simons Institute". nsi.edu.np. Retrieved November 11, 2017.
  60. ^ "Stony Brook Announces $25 Million Gift From Renowned Former Math Chair Jim Simons". stonybrook.edu. Archived from the original on April 26, 2007.
  61. ^ Arenson, Karen W. (February 27, 2008). "$60 Million Gift for Stony Brook". The New York Times. Retrieved May 5, 2010.
  62. ^ "Cohen, Simons, 12 Others Enter Hedge Fund Hall". Institutional Investor. Institutional Investor LLC. September 23, 2008. Retrieved June 16, 2019.
  63. ^ "Alternative Rich List". FT.com. September 22, 2006. Archived from the original on April 23, 2008. Retrieved November 8, 2007.
  64. ^ "Bloomberg Markets Most Influential 50". www.bloomberg.com. Retrieved May 11, 2020.
  65. ^ Wigglesworth, Robin. "The Man Who Solved the Market: How Jim Simons Launched the Quant Revolution". www.ft.com. Retrieved May 11, 2020.
  66. ^ "Registrar : Trinity College Dublin, the University of Dublin, Ireland". www.tcd.ie. Retrieved January 6, 2020.

Further reading[edit]

  • D. T. Max, "The Numbers King: Algorithms made Jim Simons a Wall Street billionaire. His new research center helps scientists mine data for the common good", The New Yorker, 18 & 25 December 2017, pp. 72–76, 78–83.
  • Baker, Nathaniel (June 24, 2005). "Renaissance Readies Long-Biased Strat". Institutional Investor.
  • Zuckerman, Gregory. The Man Who Solved the Market: How Jim Simon's Launched the Quant Revolution. Portfolio, 2019.

External links[edit]