Newly Rediscovered Papers of a Game Theory Pioneer

Oskar Morgenstern, n.d., from the Oskar Morgenstern Papers.
Oskar Morgenstern, n.d., from the Oskar Morgenstern Papers.

A project on the history of Mathematica Policy Research recently unearthed a historical treasure — a cache of personal papers, professional files, and correspondence by celebrated economist and mathematician Oskar Morgenstern, a founder of Mathematica.  They will now join the existing collection of Morgenstern Papers in the Economists’ Papers Project at the Rubenstein Library.

The newly rediscovered papers are linked to Morgenstern’s longstanding connection to Mathematica.  Along with several other Princeton University economists and mathematicians, Morgenstern founded Mathematica and served as chairman of its board.  He maintained an office at the company’s Princeton headquarters until his death in 1977.  “The materials, which we believe are from his Mathematica office, were recently discovered in our archives when we began compiling a history of the firm,” explained Paul Decker, president and CEO of Mathematica.

The additional papers comprise seventeen boxes of Morgenstern’s files and correspondence dating from 1940 through 1970.  The discovery of these new materials serendipitously matched a period of research on Morgenstern’s travels and correspondence conducted by his daughter, Karin Papp, who assisted in transferring the files from Mathematica’s offices to the Rubenstein Library.  The remainder of Morgenstern’s papers were donated to the Rubenstein Library by his widow Dorothy in the late 1980s.  Among his many achievements, Morgenstern’s Theory of Games and Economic Behavior, co-authored with John von Neumann, is a pioneering work on game theory.

This addition fills an important gap in the Morgenstern Papers, and will be made available for research use after being prepared by our staff.

Post contributed by Will Hansen, Assistant Curator of Collections, adapted from a press release prepared by Mathematica Policy Research.