Oskar Morgenstern

January 24, 1902 – July 26, 1977

Brief Biography

Oskar Morgenstern was a German-born economist who is best remembered for establishing game theory with Princeton mathematician John von Neumann. Morgenstern was born in Görlitz, Saxony to the purportedly illegitimate daughter of German Emperor Frederick III. He grew up in Austria and studied at the University of Vienna, receiving his doctorate in 1925. Morgenstern taught at the university for thirteen years before accepting a visiting appointment at Princeton University in 1938. While abroad, Adolf Hitler initiated the successful takeover of the Austrian government, prompting Morgenstern to remain in the United States.

At Princeton, Morgenstern met von Neumann and worked closely with him and other personnel at the Institute of Advanced Studies. In 1944, the pair co-authored The Theory of Games and Economic Behavior, the first text on the subject. The book set forth the basic concepts of strategy games and their application to economics and social theory. In addition to laying the foundations of game theory, a revised version of The Theory (published in 1947) included some of the earliest derivations of numerical utility theory. The book has been the inspiration for generations of game theorists and the subject of significant review and expansion. David Blackwell, for instance, framed his monumental treatment of statistical games in Theory of Games and Statistical Decisions (1954) within the context of Morgenstern and von Neumann.

Later in his career, Morgenstern introduced spectral analysis and economic theory to finance. He left Princeton in 1970 to join the faculty of New York University where he developed an interest in the New York Stock Exchange and the prices of stocks. His last major book, Mathematical Theories of Expanding and Contracting Economics (1976), co-authored with Gerald L. Thompson, removed many restrictive assumptions of economic theory and enhanced the general understanding of economic reality.

As an individual trained in Austro-Germanic school of mathematical and economic thought, Morgenstern brought a distinct level of creativity and thoroughness that different from those of his Anglo-American colleagues. He continues to be celebrated as a visionary who actively searched for new research fields and possessed the ability to transform complex, intellectual vision into groundbreaking and widely tangible publications. 

Other Biographies

Wikipedia Entry for Oskar Morgenstern

Henderson D. (2008) "Oskar Morgenstern". Henderson D., ed. The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. Library of Economics and Liberty. (link)

Leonard R. (2010) Von Neumann, Morgenstern, and the Creation of Game Theory. Cambridge University Press: New York. 

Schotter A. (1990) Oskar Morgenstern's contributions to the development of the theory of games. Presented Paper. Conference on the History of Game Theory. Duke University: Durham, NC. (link)


University of Vienna, PhD 1925 (Mathematics Genealogy)


Academic Affiliations

Key Interests in OR/MS

Application Areas


Shapley D. (1977) Game theorist Morgensten dies. Science, 197(4304): 649.


Oskar Morgenstern Papers. David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University. Durham, North Carolina. (link)

Selected Publications

Morgenstern O. (1935) Perfect foresight and economics equilibrium. Zeitschrift fur Nationalokonomie, 6(3): 337-57.

Morgenstern O. & von Neumann J. (1944) Theory of Games and Economic Behavior. Princeton University Press: Princeton, NJ.

Morgenstern O. (1950) On the Accuracy of Economics Observations. Princeton University Press: Princeton, NJ.

Morgenstern O. (1954) Experiment and large-scale computation in economics. in Economic Activity Analysis. Wiley & Sons: New York. 

Kemeny J. G., Morgenstern O., & Thompson G. L. (1956) A generalization of the von Neumann model of an expanding economy. Econometrica, 24(2): 115-135.

Morgenstern O. (1959) International Financial Transactions and Business Cycles. Princeton University Press: Princeton, NJ.

Granger C. W. J. & Morgenstern O. (1963) Spectral analysis of New York Stock Market prices. Kyklos, 16(1): 1-27.

Granger C. W. J. & Morgenstern O. (1970) Predictability of Stock Market Prices. Lexington Books: Lexington, MA.

Morgenstern O. (1972) Thirteen critical points in contemporary economic theory: an interpretation. Journal of Economic Literature, 10(4): 1163-1189.

Morgenstern O. & Thompson G. L. (1976) Mathematical Theories of Expanding and Contracting Economies. D. C. Heath & Co.: Lexington, MA.

Additional Resources

Institute for Advanced Studies Vienna. The Oskar Morgenstern Award. Accessed June 10, 2015. (link)

University of Vienna Faculty of Business, Economics, and Statistics. Research Documentation. Oskar-Morgenstern-Award. Accessed June 10, 2015. (link)