Robert Aumann 101: Discover the Nobel-Winner Mathematician
Zatrun Published at March 05, 2023

Robert Aumann is an Israeli-American mathematician and a member of the National Academy of Sciences in the United States. He is a professor at the Center for Rationality Studies at Hebrew University in Israel and a visiting professor at Stony Brook University, where he is also one of the founders of the Game Theory Center.

Aumann was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2005 for his work on conflict and cooperation through the analysis of game theory. He shared the prize with Thomas Schelling. If you are looking to learn more about Robert Aumann, check out this guide on

Who is Robert Aumann?

Robert Aumann was born in Frankfurt am Main, Germany and fled with his family to the United States two weeks before the Kristallnacht pogrom in 1938. He attended the Rabbi Jacob Joseph School, a yeshiva high school in New York City.

He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics from City College of New York in 1950. He then went on to earn his M.S. in 1952 and his Ph.D. in Mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1955. His doctoral thesis was on the asphericity of alternating linkages in knot theory and was advised by George Whitehead, Jr.

Robert Aumann joined the mathematics faculty at Hebrew University in 1956 and has been a visiting professor at Stony Brook University since 1989. He has also been a visiting professor at various universities such as University of California, Berkeley, Stanford University, and Universite Catholique de Louvain.

Robert Aumann’s most significant contribution is in the area of repeated games, where players encounter the same situation repeatedly. He was the first to define the concept of correlated equilibrium in game theory, which is a flexible type of equilibrium beyond the classic Nash equilibrium. Additionally, Aumann presented the fully formalised definition of common knowledge in game theory.

Robert Aumann is also known for his involvement in the Torah codes controversy as a religious Jew and his advocacy for the study of the Talmud in mathematics education.

Torah Codes Controversy

Robert Aumann, both a religious Jew and a scientist, became involved in the investigation of Bible codes. The study of Bible codes is of particular interest to him. He partially witnessed the validity of the “Great Rabbis Experiment” conducted by Doron Witztum, Eliyahu Rips, and Yoav Rosenberg.

Aumann organised a conference on Torah codes at the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, where Rips gave a presentation on the research results. Aumann also sponsored the publication of the Witztum-Rips-Rosenberg paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. However, the paper was rejected.

In 1996, A committee consisting of Robert J. Aumann, Dror Bar-Natan, Hillel Furstenberg, Isaak Lapides, and Rips was established to investigate the existence of “encoded” text in the Bible, as reported by H.J. Gans. The committee conducted two additional tests in line with the spirit of Gans’ experiments. Both tests failed to confirm the existence of any codes.

After a long analysis of the dynamics of the experiment and controversy, such as “everyone involved in the controversy was confused [at the start of the controversy],” Aumann concluded, “Previously, the Codes research thesis did not seem extraordinarily plausible… The research conducted under my supervision did not confirm the existence of codes, but it also did not determine the absence of their existence. Therefore, I have to calculate the probability of the codes beforehand.”

Robert Aumann and His Political Views

Robert Aumann is a member of a right-wing political group called “Professors for a Strong Israel” (PSI). In 2005, he opposed the withdrawal decision in Gaza, claiming that it was a crime against the Gush Katif settlers and a serious threat to Israel’s security. He used the “Extortionist Paradox,” also known as game theory, to argue that giving land to Arabs is strategically foolish. He claimed that when he made a firm demand, Arab states could blackmail Israel by threatening to destroy it if it remained inflexible.

Due to his political views and his use of research to justify them, the decision to award him the Nobel Prize was criticised in the European press. A petition signed by 1,000 academics worldwide called for the prize to be revoked.

In a speech to the religious Zionist youth movement Bnei Akiva, Robert Aumann expressed concern that anti-Zionist Satmar Jews, who had mocked the original Zionist movement, might be right, and that Israel was in “deep trouble.” “I am afraid that Satmar may be right,” he said, quoting a verse from Psalm 127 in the Torah: “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labour in vain.” According to Aumann, the only way for Zionism to survive is for it to be based on religion because the historical Zionist establishment could not continue its message because it was secular.

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