George W. Brown (academic)

George W. Brown (June 2, 1917 – June 20, 2005) was an American statistician, game theorist, and computer scientist known for his work and research in early computing machinery, game theory, mathematical logic, decision theory and administration. He was a major force in the design and construction of early computing machinery, including the IAS machine, and subsequently directed the construction of JOHNNIAC. His publication of EDUNET in 1967 presaged the details and rise of the early internet. The concept of fictitious play in game theory is due to him.[2]

George W. Brown
Born(1917-06-02)June 2, 1917
DiedJune 20, 2005(2005-06-20) (aged 88)
Alma materPrinceton University
Harvard University
Known forFictitious play
Brown-von-Neumann-Nash Dynamics
Scientific career
InstitutionsPrinceton University
RAND Corporation
Iowa State University
UC Irvine
ThesisReduction of a Certain Class of Composite Statistical Hypotheses[1] (1940)
Doctoral advisorSamuel S. Wilks


Brown received his S.B in 1937 and his S.M in 1938, both from Harvard University. He then moved to Princeton University and was awarded his Ph.D there in 1940 under advisor Samuel Wilks.[3] After graduation he was initially unable to get a job in academia due to the anti-semitism of the time, and his first job was in the research division of R. H. Macy & Co. (now Macy's Department Store) where he did statistical studies of the store's operations and met his first wife, Bobbie.[4] After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he returned to Princeton to work on military research projects and avoid the draft. In 1944 he moved to the RCA Labs, still in Princeton, and joined the group of Jan A. Rajchman where he helped design the Selectron tube, an early form of digital computer memory. During this time he also contributed to the IAS machine under John von Neumann with whom he would later collaborate on theoretical topics as well.

In 1946 he was finally granted a tenure-track professorial role at Iowa State University as an Associate Professor of Mathematics and Statistics, alongside his long time friend and colleague Alexander Mood. By 1947 he had been granted a full professorship but decided to leave for the RAND Corporation to become chief of their Numerical Analysis Department in 1948.[5] It was at RAND that he began the JOHNNIAC project,[6] named after John von Neumann, and based on the IAS machine and selectron tube memory. Due to his familiarity with the IAS machine and other early computers he worked as a consultant for IBM and other early computing companies. During this time he was also a Visiting Professor of Engineering and Mathematics at UCLA.

After a foray into early pay television with Telemeter (pay television),[7] he became the first director of the Western Data Processing Center at UCLA in 1957 and with that a professor in, and head of, the Dept. of Business Administration (later to become the School of Management). This shift to administration was due to IBM's offer to provide a free large-scale high-speed computer to UCLA, if they would employ Brown as the director of the computer laboratory. He was also attracted to this arrangement because of his disillusionment with the usual process by which universities acquired their first computers, saying "...look into how universities financed their participation with computers and you will discover that they sold their souls to Defense Department bookkeeping."[8] During this time he was also heavily involved in directing early computing industry startups including Dataproducts. In 1967 he moved to UC Irvine to become the dean of the Graduate School of Administration (now Paul Merage School of Business).[9] [10] During this career transition from early computing technologies to administration, he worked on applying decision theory and game theoretic techniques to organizational structure and business administration. He stayed at Irvine until his retirement in 1982.

Outside of academia, Brown was a member of the SATCOM task group for the 'Interchange of Scientific and Technical Information in Machine Language (ISTIM)' established in 1969 by the President's Special Assistant for Science and Technology (precursor to the modern-day Office of Science and Technology Policy). [11] Brown was an early and important member of EDUCOM (Interuniversity Communication Council, a precursor to the modern Educause] which championed the idea of connected computing and network information sharing (read: early internet) for the university computing systems of the day. In 1966 Brown organized the 'Summer Study on Information Networks' in Boulder, Colorado as EDUCOM's first major project. The result of this workshop was the publication of EDUNET (by Brown, James Grier Miller, and Thomas A. Keenan), a master plan for a communications network linking universities and colleges through the US.[12] From the modern perspective EDUNET is seen a prophetic landmark, but never achieved the funding necessary to implement, and the ideas expressed in the paper would take several more decades to be fully realized.

The George W. Brown award for 'Overall Academic Excellence and Exceptional Service to the Paul Merage School of Business' is awarded yearly by UC Irvine.

U.S. PatentsEdit

Notable PapersEdit

  • Brown, G.W. (1951) "Iterative Solutions of Games by Fictitious Play" In Activity Analysis of Production and Allocation, T.C. Koopmans (Ed.), New York: Wiley.
  • G. Brown and J. von Neumann, "Solutions of Games by Differential Equations," in: H. Kuhn and A. Tucker (eds.) Contributions to the

Theory of Games, Annals of Mathematical Studies No. 24, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1950.

  • G.W. Brown, J. G. Miller, T. A. Keenan, "EDUNET: Report of the Summer Study on Information Networks," Wiley, New York, 1967, pp. 241-372.


  1. ^ George W. Brown at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  2. ^ Berger, U (2007). "Brown's original fictitious play". Journal of Economic Theory. 135: 572–578. doi:10.1016/j.jet.2005.12.010.
  3. ^ George W. Brown at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  4. ^ Mood, Alexander. "In Memoriam". George W. Brown. University of California. Retrieved 27 November 2016.
  5. ^ Ware, Willis H.; Chalk, Peter; Warnes, Richard; Clutterbuck, Lindsay; Winn, Aidan Kirby; Kirby, Sheila Nataraj (2008). RAND and the Information Evolution: A History in Essays and Vignettes. Rand Corporation (published December 9, 2008). p. 28. ISBN 978-0-8330-4816-5. Retrieved 5 January 2017.
  6. ^ Uncapher, Keith. "Oral history interview with Keith Uncapher". Oral Histories of the Charles Babbage Institute. University of Minnesota. Retrieved 27 November 2016.
  7. ^ Lappen, Chester Irwin. "Oral History interview with Chester Irwin Lappen". Oral Histories of the Charles Babbage Institute. University of Minnesota. Retrieved 27 November 2016.
  8. ^ Mirowski, Philip (2002). Machine Dreams: Economics Becomes a Cyborg Science. Cambridge University Press. p. 352. ISBN 9780521772839.
  9. ^ "Campus Appointments". University Bulletin. 16: 5. July 3, 1967. Retrieved 27 November 2016.
  10. ^ Geiger, Roger L.; Sorber, Nathan M. (2013). The Land-Grant Colleges and the Reshaping of American Higher Education. Transaction Publishers. p. 318. ISBN 9781412851473.
  11. ^ Committee on Scientific and Technical Communication of the National Academy of Sciences (1969). Scientific and Technical Communication: A pressing national problem and recommendations for its solution (Report). National Academy of Sciences. p. 291.
  12. ^ G. W. Brown; J. G. Miller; T. A. Keenan (1967). EDUNET: Report of the summer study on information networks (Report). John Wiley & Sons. pp. 241–372.