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John Harsányi (29 May 1920 – 9 August 2000) was a Hungarian-American economist and the recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1994.
Life and Career
John Charles Harsányi was born on May 29, 1920, in Budapest, Hungary. He grew up in a middle-class Jewish family and received a strong education in mathematics and economics. However, due to the rise of anti-Semitism and the threat of World War II, Harsányi’s family faced increasingly difficult circumstances.
Harsányi began his academic career at the University of Budapest but was forced to interrupt his studies due to the war. After World War II, he resumed his education and obtained a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Budapest in 1947. He also completed a second Ph.D. in economics from Stanford University in 1959.
Harsányi’s notable contributions to economics came in the field of game theory. He developed the concept of Bayesian games, which extended the traditional game theory to account for situations with incomplete information. This work became influential in various fields, including economics, political science, and computer science.
John Harsányi passed away on August 9, 2000, in Berkeley, California, at the age of 80.
Award and Legacy
Throughout his career, Harsányi received numerous accolades and awards. In 1994, he was jointly awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, along with John Nash and Reinhard Selten, for their pioneering work in game theory. The Nobel Committee recognized Harsányi for his contributions to the analysis of strategic behavior through the lens of economics and philosophy.
John Harsányi’s legacy primarily lies in his groundbreaking contributions to game theory and his efforts to integrate economic analysis with philosophical insights. His work on Bayesian games and the development of the concept of incomplete information has had a profound impact on various disciplines. Harsányi’s ideas have advanced our understanding of strategic decision-making, negotiations, and interactions in uncertain environments.
Moreover, Harsányi’s work laid the foundation for subsequent developments in game theory and has continued to inspire generations of economists and researchers. His ideas remain highly influential in both academic and practical applications of game theory, contributing to advancements in fields such as economics, political science, computer science, and social sciences as a whole.
On 29 May 2010, Google celebrated John Harsányi’s Birthday with a doodle.