© The Nobel Foundation
John C. Harsanyi

American Jewish Recipients of the Nobel Prize

John C. Harsanyi: Nobel Prize
in Economics Recipient-1994

by Seymour “Sy” Brody

John C. Harsanyi was an American Jewish recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics, in 1994, which he shared with John F. Nash Jr. and Reinhard Selten for their pioneering analysis of equilibria in the theory of
non-cooperative games.

He was born on May 29, 1920, in Budapest, Hungary. He attended a Lutheran high school where he won first prize for mathematics competition for all high school students. His father owned a pharmacy and sent him to France, in 1939, to study chemical engineering at the University of Lyons. When World War II started, he returned home to attend the University of Budapest to study pharmacology. He received his B.A. degree in 1944.

When Hitler’s army captured Hungary, Harsanyi was put in a labor unit in 1944. His labor unit was to be deported to an Austrian camp. When they were at the railroad station, he managed to escape. He knew a Jesuit father, who hid him in the cellar in the monastery.

When the war ended, he re-enrolled in the University of Budapest. He received his Ph.D. degree in philosophy with minors in sociology and psychology, in 1947. After graduation, he became a junior faculty member at the University Institute of Sociology. Here, he met Anne Klauber, who was a student.

Hungary became a Stalinist state after World War II and life was difficult for them because of their ant-communist views. They escaped to Austria and received their landing permits which permitted them to go to Sydney, Australia. They were married here on January 2, 1951,

In 1954, Harsanyi was appointed as a lecturer in economics at the University of Queensland, in Brisbane. In 1956, he was awarded a Rockefeller Fellowship and he spent the next two years at Stanford University, where he received his Ph.D. degree in economics.

He returned to Australia, but he felt isolated as the time game theory was practically unknown in the universities. He then received an appointment as a Professor of Economics, at Wayne State University in Detroit. In 1964, he became a Visiting Professor and then a Professor at the Business School of the University of California, Berkeley.

Harsanyi wrote four books:
● Essays on Ethic, Social Behavior and Scientific Explanation, 1976
● Rational Behavior and Bargaining Equilibrium in Games and Social Situations, 1977
● Papers in Game Theory, 1982
● A General Theory of Equilibrium Selection in Games was a joint work with Reinhard Selten, 1988

Harsanyi was a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the American of Arts and Sciences, a Fellow of the Econometric Society, a Distinguished Fellow of the American Economic Association. He was a Fellow of the Center for Advanced Study n Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. He received an Honorary degree of Doctor of Science from Northwestern University.

John Harsanyi died on August 9, 2000, in Berkeley, California.

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