Oskar Morgenstern

Oskar Morgenstern (January 24, 1902 – July 26, 1977) was a German-born economist. In collaboration with mathematician John von Neumann, he founded the mathematical field of game theory as applied to the social sciences and strategic decision-making (see von Neumann–Morgenstern utility theorem).[1][2][3][4]

Oskar Morgenstern
Born(1902-01-24)January 24, 1902
DiedJuly 26, 1977(1977-07-26) (aged 75)
  • German
  • Austrian (from 1925)
  • American (from 1944)
InstitutionPrinceton University
New York University
Mathematica Policy Research
School or
Austrian School
Alma materUniversity of Vienna
Ludwig von Mises
Martin Shubik
Lionel W. McKenzie
InfluencesOthmar Spann
Carl Menger
ContributionsGame theory, mathematical economics

Companies he served as founder/co-founder of included Market Research Corporation of America, Mathematica and Mathematica Policy Research.


Morgenstern was born in Görlitz in the Prussian Province of Silesia. His mother was said to be a daughter of Emperor Frederick III of Germany.[5][6][7][8][9]

Morgenstern grew up in Vienna, Austria, where he also went to university. In 1925, he graduated from the University of Vienna and got his PhD in political science. From 1925 until 1928, he went on a three-year fellowship financed by the Rockefeller Foundation. After his return in 1928, he became a professor in economics at the University of Vienna until his visit to Princeton University in 1938. In 1935, Morgenstern published the article Perfect Foresight and Economic Equilibrium, after which his colleague Eduard Čech pointed him to an article of John von Neumann, Zur Theorie der Gesellschaftsspiele (1928).

During Morgenstern's visit to Princeton University, Adolf Hitler took over Vienna during the Anschluss, and Morgenstern decided to remain in the United States. He became a member of the faculty at Princeton but gravitated toward the Institute for Advanced Study. There, he met von Neumann and they collaborated to write Theory of Games and Economic Behavior, published in 1944, which is recognized as the first book on game theory, a mathematical framework for the study of strategic structures which govern rational decision-making in certain economic, political, and military situations. In 2013, the University of Vienna relocated the Faculty of Business, Economics and Statistics and named the square Oskar-Morgenstern-Platz in his honor.

The collaboration between economist Morgenstern and mathematician von Neumann led to the birth of entirely new areas of investigation in both mathematics and economics. These have attracted widespread academic and practical interest since that time. In 1944, Morgenstern also became a United States citizen, and four years later he married Dorothy Young, with whom he had two children, Carl and Karin. In 1950, he was elected as a Fellow of the American Statistical Association.[10] Morgenstern remained at Princeton as a professor of economics until his retirement in 1970, at which time he joined the faculty of New York University. Morgenstern wrote many other articles and books, including On the Accuracy of Economic Observations, and Predictability of Stock Market Prices with subsequent Nobel laureate Clive Granger.

Morgenstern died in Princeton, New Jersey in 1977. The archive of his published works and unpublished documents is held at Duke University.[11]

In November 2012 a place in Alsergrund, Vienna was called "Oskar-Morgenstern-Platz"; it is the address of the Faculties of Economics and of Mathematics of the University of Vienna.


In the late 1950s[12][13] "Oskar Morgenstern and several of his Princeton University colleagues" began a "small research organization."

Company names with which he, along with others, were involved[14] as founders/co-founders included:


  • Morgenstern, Oskar (1950). On the accuracy of economic observations (1966 - 2nd rev. ed.). Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
  • von Neumann, John; Morgenstern, Oskar (1944). Theory of games and economic behaviour (1955 - 3rd ed.). Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
  • Kemeny, John G.; Morgenstern, Oskar; Thompson, Gerald L. (1956). "A generalization of the von Neumann model of an expanding economy". Econometrica. 24 (2): 115–135. doi:10.2307/1905746. JSTOR 1905746. MR 0080573.
  • Morgenstern, Oskar (1972). "Thirteen Critical Points in Contemporary Economic Theory: An Interpretation," Journal of Economic Literature 10, no. 4 (December): 1184
– reprinted in Selected Economic /writings by Oskar Morgenstern, Andrew Schotter, ed. (New York: New York University Press, 1976), p. 288.
  • Morgenstern, Oskar (1959). While the Atomic Clock Ticks On – The Question Of National Defense.[15]
  • Morgenstern, Oskar; Granger, Clive W. J. (1970). Predictability of stock market prices. Lexington, Massachusetts: Lexington Books (D. C. Heath and Company).
  • Morgenstern, Oskar; Thompson, Gerald L. (1976). Mathematical theory of expanding and contracting economies. Lexington Books. Lexington, Massachusetts: D. C. Heath and Company. pp. xviii, 277.
  • Morgenstern, Oskar (1976). "The collaboration between Oskar Morgenstern and John von Neumann on the Theory of Games". Journal of Economic Literature 14, No. 3 (Sep., 1976), pp. 805-816
– reprinted in Theory of games and economic behaviour — Sixtieth anniversary edition. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, p. 712. ISBN 0-691-13061-2.


  1. ^ Schotter, Andrew (1992). "Oskar Morgenstern's Contribution to the Development of the Theory of Games". In Weintraub, E. Roy (ed.). Toward a History of Game Theory. Durham: Duke University Press. pp. 95–112. ISBN 0-8223-1253-0.
  2. ^ Leonard, Robert (2010). Von Neumann, Morgenstern and the Creation of Game Theory. New York: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511778278. ISBN 978-0-521-56266-9.
  3. ^ Kuhn, H. W.; Tucker, A. W. (1958). "John von Neumann's work in the theory of games and mathematical economics". Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 64 (Part 2) (3): 100–122. CiteSeerX doi:10.1090/s0002-9904-1958-10209-8. MR 0096572.
  4. ^ von Neumann, J (1928). "Zur Theorie der Gesellschaftsspiele". Mathematische Annalen (in German). 100: 295–320. doi:10.1007/bf01448847. S2CID 122961988.
  5. ^ Weintraub, E. Roy; Forget, Evelyn L. Economists' lives: biography and autobiography in the history of economics p. 234, Duke University Press Books (December 6, 2007)
  6. ^ The New York Times biographical service, vol. 8, p. 276, New York Times & Arno Press, 1977
  7. ^ Niehans, Jürg. A history of economic theory: classic contributions, 1720–1980, p. 394, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990
  8. ^ Bewersdorff, Jörg. Luck, logic, and white lies: the mathematics of games, p. 368, A.K Peters/CRC Press (November 23, 2004)
  9. ^ Fleck, Christian (2007). Transatlantische Bereicherungen: zur Erfindung der empirischen Sozialforschung. Berlin: Suhrkamp
  10. ^ View/Search Fellows of the ASA, accessed 2016-07-23.
  11. ^ "Oskar Morgenstern Archive". Duke University Library. Retrieved 3 October 2014.
  12. ^ 1983 article, "25 years ago" would be 1958
  13. ^ Karen W. Arenson (February 22, 1983). "Mathematica's Shift Into Software Field". The New York Times.
  14. ^ "Samuel D. Barton, 68, A Marketing Specialist". The New York Times. January 29, 1982.
  15. ^ S.L.A. Marshall (November 22, 1959). "While the Atomic Clock Ticks On – The Question Of National Defense". The New York Times. 306 pp. New York: Random House. "In this book, Oskar Morgenstern, the Princeton economist, takes a look at the prospects for American survival and what we are doing to improve them. What he finds should make the angels weep."


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