Oskar Morgenstern's Transformation (1925-38)
The austrian economist who fell in love with mathematics
Unlike his collaborator John von Neumann (1903-57), economist Oskar Morgenstern (1902-77)’s name today remains synonymous with more-or-less a single work: the book Theory of Games and Economic Behavior* which the two co-authored in the war years from 1940-44. An economist by training, Morgenstern had prior to the 1944 work never before published any mathematical papers or written even a single mathematical proof. Then in 1944, seemingly out of nowhere, comes a highly technical brick of a book at 625 pages co-authored by Morgenstern in his and von Neumann’s first (and only) collaborative effort.
This week’s newsletter is about Oskar Morgenstern’s transformation from an Austrian political economist in the 1920s to the co-inventor of game theory in the 1940s.
Morgernstern’s Early Life (1902-25)
Oskar Morgenstern was one year von Neumann’s senior, born in 1902 about 500 miles from Budapest in the provincial town of Görlitz in t…