Hebrew University of Jerusalem professor Yitzhak Robert Aumann, 75, was named co-winner of this year’s Nobel Prize in Economics. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced Monday that Aumann, an Israeli, was awarded the prize along with the University of Maryland’s Thomas Schelling, 84, in recognition of his work on game theory, the science of strategy.
A religious man identified with right-wing politics — some of his colleagues label him “extreme right” — Aumann said that he has an explanation from game theory for the failure of the Oslo agreements, and the same tools help him explain why Israel must continue the arms race and hold on to nuclear weapons.
In his overall research, Aumann developed tools for accurate analysis of economic systems in which player groups have great influence over the final result while individual players have very little influence over the processes’ outcome.
Colleagues say that the professor “is a tolerant person and is always ready to listen to other opinions, and if need be, to fight for the right of the other to voice their point of view.”
Aumann is a veteran member of right-wing think tank Professors for a Strong Israel, and he opposed the Gaza pullout. He insists on calling the evacuation of Jewish settlers from Gaza “the expulsion.”
“Irrespective of game theory, I think it was immoral, inhuman, and stupid,” he said. “We gained nothing, and there’s a good chance we lost a great deal.”
Aumann was born in 1930, in Frankfurt, Germany. When he was 8, he escaped to the United States with his parents. Eventually he went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to write his doctoral dissertation. On earning his doctorate, Aumann moved to Princeton, N.J., and began researching game theory in its early days.
The professor immigrated to Israel in 1956 and became a staff member at the Hebrew University’s Einstein Institute of Mathematics, where he taught until his retirement.