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John Harsanyi

John Harsanyi

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John Charles Harsanyi (born May 29, 1920 in Budapest
Budapest
Budapest is the capital of Hungary. As the largest city of Hungary, it is the country's principal political, cultural, commercial, industrial, and transportation centre. In 2011, Budapest had 1,733,685 inhabitants, down from its 1989 peak of 2,113,645 due to suburbanization. The Budapest Commuter...

, Hungary
Hungary
Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

; died August 9, 2000 in Berkeley, California
Berkeley, California
Berkeley is a city on the east shore of the San Francisco Bay in Northern California, United States. Its neighbors to the south are the cities of Oakland and Emeryville. To the north is the city of Albany and the unincorporated community of Kensington...

, United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

) was a Hungarian
Hungary
Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

-Australian-American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 economist and Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences
Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences
The Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, commonly referred to as the Nobel Prize in Economics, but officially the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel , is an award for outstanding contributions to the field of economics, generally regarded as one of the...

 winner.

He is best known for his contributions to the study of game theory
Game theory
Game theory is a mathematical method for analyzing calculated circumstances, such as in games, where a person’s success is based upon the choices of others...

 and its application to economics, specifically for his developing the highly innovative analysis of games of incomplete information, so-called Bayesian game
Bayesian game
In game theory, a Bayesian game is one in which information about characteristics of the other players is incomplete. Following John C. Harsanyi's framework, a Bayesian game can be modelled by introducing Nature as a player in a game...

s. He also made important contributions to the use of game theory and economic reasoning in political and moral philosophy (specifically utilitarian ethics
Utilitarianism
Utilitarianism is an ethical theory holding that the proper course of action is the one that maximizes the overall "happiness", by whatever means necessary. It is thus a form of consequentialism, meaning that the moral worth of an action is determined only by its resulting outcome, and that one can...

) as well as contributing to the study of equilibrium selection
Equilibrium selection
Equilibrium selection is a concept from game theory which seeks to address reasons for players of a game to select a certain equilibrium over another...

. For his work, he was a co-recipient along with John Nash
John Forbes Nash
John Forbes Nash, Jr. is an American mathematician whose works in game theory, differential geometry, and partial differential equations have provided insight into the forces that govern chance and events inside complex systems in daily life...

 and Reinhard Selten
Reinhard Selten
-Life and career:Selten was born in Breslau in Lower Silesia, now in Poland, to a Jewish father, Adolf Selten, and Protestant mother, Käthe Luther. For his work in game theory, Selten won the 1994 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences...

 of the 1994 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics.

Biography


John C. Harsanyi was born in Budapest
Budapest
Budapest is the capital of Hungary. As the largest city of Hungary, it is the country's principal political, cultural, commercial, industrial, and transportation centre. In 2011, Budapest had 1,733,685 inhabitants, down from its 1989 peak of 2,113,645 due to suburbanization. The Budapest Commuter...

, Hungary
Hungary
Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

 on May 29, 1920, the son of a pharmacy owner. His parents converted from Judaism to Catholicism a year before he was born. He attended high school at the Lutheran Gymnasium
Fasori Gimnázium
Fasori Gimnázium , also known as Fasori Evangélikus Gimnázium , official name: Budapest-Fasori Evangélikus Gimnázium, is a famous secondary school in Budapest, Hungary...

 in Budapest. During high school, became one of the best problem solvers of the KöMaL
Komal
Komal Kumar is an Indian actor and comedian in the Kannada film industry, known for the comedy roles he portrays in his movies. He is the brother of actor Jaggesh.-Early Life:...

, the Mathematical and Physical Monthly for Secondary Schools. Founded in 1893, this periodical is generally credited with a large share of Hungarian students' success in mathematics. He also won the first prize in the Eötvös mathematics competition Eötvös for high school students. Although he wanted to study mathematics and philosophy, his father sent him to France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 in 1939 to enroll in chemical engineering at the University of Lyon
University of Lyon
The University of Lyon , located in Lyon and Saint Etienne, France, is a center for higher education and research comprising 16 institutions of higher education...

. However, because of the start of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, Harsanyi returned to Hungary to study pharmacology at the University of Budapest (today: Eötvös Loránd University), earning a diploma in 1944. As a pharmacology student, Harsanyi escaped conscription into the Hungarian Army which, as a person of Jewish descent
Cultural heritage
Cultural heritage is the legacy of physical artifacts and intangible attributes of a group or society that are inherited from past generations, maintained in the present and bestowed for the benefit of future generations...

, would have meant forced labor. However, in 1944 (after the fall of the Horthy
Miklós Horthy
Miklós Horthy de Nagybánya was the Regent of the Kingdom of Hungary during the interwar years and throughout most of World War II, serving from 1 March 1920 to 15 October 1944. Horthy was styled "His Serene Highness the Regent of the Kingdom of Hungary" .Admiral Horthy was an officer of the...

 regime and the seizure of power by the Arrow Cross Party
Arrow Cross Party
The Arrow Cross Party was a national socialist party led by Ferenc Szálasi, which led in Hungary a government known as the Government of National Unity from October 15, 1944 to 28 March 1945...

) his military deferment was cancelled and he was compelled to join a forced labor unit on the Eastern Front
Eastern Front (World War II)
The Eastern Front of World War II was a theatre of World War II between the European Axis powers and co-belligerent Finland against the Soviet Union, Poland, and some other Allies which encompassed Northern, Southern and Eastern Europe from 22 June 1941 to 9 May 1945...

. After seven months of forced labor, when the Nazi authorities decided to deport his unit to a concentration camp in Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

, John Harsanyi managed to escape and found sanctuary for the rest of the war in a Jesuit monastery.

Post-War


After the end of the war, Harsanyi returned to the University of Budapest for graduate studies in philosophy and sociology, earning his Ph.D. in both subjects in 1947. Being a devout Catholic
Catholic
The word catholic comes from the Greek phrase , meaning "on the whole," "according to the whole" or "in general", and is a combination of the Greek words meaning "about" and meaning "whole"...

 at the time, he simultaneously studied theology, also joining lay ranks of the Dominican Order
Dominican Order
The Order of Preachers , after the 15th century more commonly known as the Dominican Order or Dominicans, is a Catholic religious order founded by Saint Dominic and approved by Pope Honorius III on 22 December 1216 in France...

. He later abandoned Catholicism, becoming an atheist for the rest of his life. Harsanyi spent the academic year 1947-1948 on the faculty of the Institute of Sociology of the University of Budapest, where he met Anne Klauber, his future wife. He was forced to resign the faculty because of openly expressing his anti-Marxist opinions, while Anne faced increasing peer pressure to leave him for the same reason. Harsanyi remained in Hungary for the following two years attempting to sell his family's pharmacy without losing it to the authorities. After it became apparent that the communist party would confiscate the pharmacy in 1950, he fled with Anne and her parents by illegally crossing the border with Austria, then going to Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 where Klauber's parents had some friends.

Australia


The two did not marry until they arrived in Australia because Klauber's immigration papers would need to be changed to reflect her married name. The two arrived with her parents on December 30, 1950 and they looked to marry immediately. Harsanyi and Klauber were married on January 2, 1951. Neither spoke much English and understood little of what they were told to say to each other. Harsanyi later explained to his new wife that she had promised to cook better food than she usually did.

Harsanyi's Hungarian degrees were not recognized in Australia, but they did earn him credit at the University of Sydney for a Master's degree. Harsanyi worked in a factory during the day and studied economics
Economics
Economics is the social science that analyzes the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. The term economics comes from the Ancient Greek from + , hence "rules of the house"...

 in the evening at the University of Sydney
University of Sydney
The University of Sydney is a public university located in Sydney, New South Wales. The main campus spreads across the suburbs of Camperdown and Darlington on the southwestern outskirts of the Sydney CBD. Founded in 1850, it is the oldest university in Australia and Oceania...

, finishing with a M.A. in 1953. While studying in Sydney, he started publishing research papers in economic journals, including the Journal of Political Economy and the Review of Economic Studies. The degree allowed him to take a teaching position in 1954 at the University of Queensland
University of Queensland
The University of Queensland, also known as UQ, is a public university located in state of Queensland, Australia. Founded in 1909, it is the oldest and largest university in Queensland and the fifth oldest in the nation...

 in Brisbane
Brisbane
Brisbane is the capital and most populous city in the Australian state of Queensland and the third most populous city in Australia. Brisbane's metropolitan area has a population of over 2 million, and the South East Queensland urban conurbation, centred around Brisbane, encompasses a population of...

. While at Brisbane, Harsanyi's wife became a fashion
Fashion
Fashion, a general term for a currently popular style or practice, especially in clothing, foot wear, or accessories. Fashion references to anything that is the current trend in look and dress up of a person...

 designer for a small factory.

Later years


In 1956, Harsanyi received a Rockefeller scholarship
Rockefeller Foundation
The Rockefeller Foundation is a prominent philanthropic organization and private foundation based at 420 Fifth Avenue, New York City. The preeminent institution established by the six-generation Rockefeller family, it was founded by John D. Rockefeller , along with his son John D. Rockefeller, Jr...

 that enabled him and Anne to spend the next two years in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, at Stanford University
Stanford University
The Leland Stanford Junior University, commonly referred to as Stanford University or Stanford, is a private research university on an campus located near Palo Alto, California. It is situated in the northwestern Santa Clara Valley on the San Francisco Peninsula, approximately northwest of San...

 and, for a semester, at the Cowles Foundation
Cowles Foundation
The Cowles Commission for Research in Economics is an economic research institute, founded in Colorado Springs in 1932 by Alfred Cowles, a businessman and economist. In 1939, the Cowles Commission moved to the University of Chicago under the directorship of Theodore O. Yntema. Jacob Marschak took...

. At Stanford Harsanyi wrote a dissertation in game theory
Game theory
Game theory is a mathematical method for analyzing calculated circumstances, such as in games, where a person’s success is based upon the choices of others...

 under the supervision of Kenneth Arrow
Kenneth Arrow
Kenneth Joseph Arrow is an American economist and joint winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics with John Hicks in 1972. To date, he is the youngest person to have received this award, at 51....

, earning a second PhD in economics in 1959, while Anne earned an MA in psychology. Harsanyi's student visa expired in 1958 and the two returned to Australia.

After working for a short time as a researcher at the Australian National University
Australian National University
The Australian National University is a teaching and research university located in the Australian capital, Canberra.As of 2009, the ANU employs 3,945 administrative staff who teach approximately 10,000 undergraduates, and 7,500 postgraduate students...

 in Canberra
Canberra
Canberra is the capital city of Australia. With a population of over 345,000, it is Australia's largest inland city and the eighth-largest city overall. The city is located at the northern end of the Australian Capital Territory , south-west of Sydney, and north-east of Melbourne...

, Harsanyi became frustrated with the lack of interest in game theory in Australia. With the help of Kenneth Arrow and James Tobin
James Tobin
James Tobin was an American economist who, in his lifetime, served on the Council of Economic Advisors and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, and taught at Harvard and Yale Universities. He developed the ideas of Keynesian economics, and advocated government intervention to...

, he was able to move to the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, taking a position as professor of economics at the Wayne State University
Wayne State University
Wayne State University is a public research university located in Detroit, Michigan, United States, in the city's Midtown Cultural Center Historic District. Founded in 1868, WSU consists of 13 schools and colleges offering more than 400 major subject areas to over 32,000 graduate and...

 in Detroit between 1961-1963. In 1964, he moved to Berkeley
Berkeley, California
Berkeley is a city on the east shore of the San Francisco Bay in Northern California, United States. Its neighbors to the south are the cities of Oakland and Emeryville. To the north is the city of Albany and the unincorporated community of Kensington...

, California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

, he remained at the University of California, Berkeley
University of California, Berkeley
The University of California, Berkeley , is a teaching and research university established in 1868 and located in Berkeley, California, USA...

 until retiring in 1990. Shortly after arriving in Berkeley, he and Anne had a child, Tom. While teaching at Berkeley, John Harsanyi did extensive research in game theory
Game theory
Game theory is a mathematical method for analyzing calculated circumstances, such as in games, where a person’s success is based upon the choices of others...

. From 1966 to 1968, Harsanyi was part of a team of game theorists tasked with advising the United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency in collaboration with Mathematica, a consulting group from Princeton University
Princeton University
Princeton University is a private research university located in Princeton, New Jersey, United States. The school is one of the eight universities of the Ivy League, and is one of the nine Colonial Colleges founded before the American Revolution....

 led by Harold Kuhn and Oskar Morgenstern
Oskar Morgenstern
Oskar Morgenstern was a German-born Austrian-School economist. He, along with John von Neumann, helped found the mathematical field of game theory ....

.

John Harsanyi died in 2000 from heart attack in Berkeley, California, after suffering for a time from Alzheimer's disease
Alzheimer's disease
Alzheimer's disease also known in medical literature as Alzheimer disease is the most common form of dementia. There is no cure for the disease, which worsens as it progresses, and eventually leads to death...

.

Publications


Harsanyi's began researching on utilitarian ethics
Utilitarianism
Utilitarianism is an ethical theory holding that the proper course of action is the one that maximizes the overall "happiness", by whatever means necessary. It is thus a form of consequentialism, meaning that the moral worth of an action is determined only by its resulting outcome, and that one can...

 while at Brisbane. He published two papers explaining that before understanding moral problems, the difference between people's personal preferences and their moral preferences must be distinguished.

After Nash's publications on game theory, Hasanyi became increasingly interested in the topic.
  • "Cardinal Utility in Welfare Economics and in the Theory of Risk-Taking", Journal of Political Economy (1953)
  • "Cardinal Welfare, Individualistic Ethics and Interpersonal Comparisons of Utility", Journal of Political Economy(1955)
  • "Bargaining in Ignorance of the Opponent's Utility Function", Journal of Conflict Resolution (1962)
  • "Games with Incomplete Information Played by "Bayesian" Players, I-III. Part I. The Basic Model", Management Science, Vol. 14, No. 3, Theory Series (1967)
  • Essays on Ethics, Social Behavior, and Scientific Explanation, Dordrecht, Holland: Reidel Publishing Company (1976)
  • Rational Behavior and Bargaining Equilibrium in Games and Social Situations, Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press (1977)
  • Papers in Game Theory, Dordrecht, Holland: Reidel Publishing Company (1982)
  • A General Theory of Equilibrium Selection in Games (with Reinhard Selten
    Reinhard Selten
    -Life and career:Selten was born in Breslau in Lower Silesia, now in Poland, to a Jewish father, Adolf Selten, and Protestant mother, Käthe Luther. For his work in game theory, Selten won the 1994 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences...

    ), Cambridge, MA: MIT-Press. (1988)

External links