Martin Shubik

March 24, 1926 – August 22, 2018

Brief Biography

Martin Shubik was born in Manhattan, New York City during a two year period during which his father, Joseph Shubik, represented a Scottish company there.  With his wife Sara and son Philippe, Joseph had arrived in New York 17 months earlier.  Both parents were Jewish, Joseph from Russia and Sara from France.  Within a few weeks of Martin’s birth, the family returned to England, where Martin received his early education as the Woodstock School and the University College School in London, and Canford, East Dorset, in the southwest of England.    

In July of 1940, following the evacuation from Dunkirk, the Battle of Britain and the Blitz began, including an air and sea blockade.  The following month Adolf Hitler declared his intention to intensify air and sea warfare against the English in order to "establish the necessary conditions for the final conquest of England.”  Joseph decided to send Sara, Martin, and his 10 year old sister Irene to relatives in Canada.  They left from Liverpool on August 17, 1940, aboard the Duchess of Atholl (which in 1942 was torpedoed and sunk in the South Atlantic). 

Martin finished high school at Pickering College in Newmarket, Ontario, now a suburb of Toronto.   He describes himself as having been an “erratic scholar” in high school,  doing well in history, English,   algebra and other subjects but poorly in geometry, for example (“I see well in many dimensions as long as the dimensions are around two,” he has sad.)    He received a scholarship to the University of Toronto, majoring in mathematics with the objective of being a “consumer” of mathematics on a hunch that the social sciences were going to become highly mathematized.   To fulfill a condition of staying in college in Canada during World War II, he enlisted in the Naval officer training program and spent time in Halifax, Nova Scotia and at sea, and has held the rank of Lieutenant, Roal Canadian Navy, retired, since 1950. 

After finishing his bachelor’s degree at the University of Toronto he pursued an MA in political economy there, with a thesis on the historical Incan use of knotted strings for accounting and inventory control.   During his studies, somewhat by chance he picked up The Theory of Games and Economic Behavior by John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern.   He wrote a review for his class in Economic Theory and decided to get a PhD in game theory at Princeton.

Shubik went to Princeton for an A.M (1951) and Ph.D. (1953) in economics under the sponsorship of Oskar Morgenstern, and studied with Morgenstern and with Albert Tucker.  He was assigned to share a suite with Lloyd Shapley and John Nash, who became lifelong friends.   Shubik subsequently coauthored papers with both, including one with both and more than a dozen papers with Shapley alone.  Others he met in Economics at Princeton included Thomas Whitin, Otto Eckstein and Gary Becker and, in Mathematics Marvin Minsky, John McCarthy, Herbert Scarf, Ralph Gomory, Richard Karlin, Alan Hoffman and Harlan Mills in Mathematics.          

After completing his Ph.D., Shubik remained at Princeton as a Research Associate in Economics, spent a year at the newly established Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences (now part of Stanford University), taught at Pennsylvania State, and served as a consultant at General Electric and a staff member in the T. J. Watson Research Laboratories at IBM before joining the Yale faculty (where he had previously spent a year as Visiting Professor of Economics) in 1963.   At General Electric he had the opportunity to look at different plants in a variety of industries as part of GE’s strategic planning process.  At IBM he worked on experimental, teaching and operational gaming, and developed a theory of bidding. 

At Yale Shubik was  Professor of Economics of Organization in the Department of Administrative Sciences until 1976, when the Department became part of the Yale’s School of Organization and Management, now the School of Management.   In the new business school he was the Seymour H. Knox Professor of Mathematical Institutional Economics (a term he coined in the 1960’s) in the new business school, and became emeritus in 2007.   His more 50 years at Yale included a period as Director of the Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics there, as well as visiting appointments at RAND in Santa Monica and the institute for Advanced Studies in Vienna.    He has served as a consultant to many companies and government agencies in the US and other countries. 

Shubik’s research and publications cover a diverse array of topics, many centered on competitive and cooperative game theory, using mathematical, experimental, and simulation methods. With Lloyd Shapley, Shubik proposed and investigated the properties of a method, now called the Shapley-Shubik index, of determining the division of power among coalitions in committees, shareholder groups, assemblies, and legislative bodies.  Their paper introducing the index and relating it to the Shapley value was written when both were graduate students. It was accepted by the American Political Science Review within six weeks and is Shubik’s most cited work.   

 He has constructed and analyzed mathematical models of a variety of game formulations, including games called the Dollar Auction and “So Long Sucker.”   In the dollar auction, players with perfect information in the game are compelled to make an ultimately irrational decision based completely on a sequence of apparently rational choices made throughout the game, with both the winner and second highest bidder paying more than $1 to win $1.   “So Long Sucker,” devised by Shubik, Shapley, Nash and Mel Hausner, is constructed in such a way that winning requires players to go back on agreements reached with each other in the course of play. 

A continuing theme of his research, beginning at IBM in 1961, has been in search of a theory of money in microeconomics.  Unsuccessful in his early attempts, he returned to the problem in the 1970’s and built a model which, in collaboration with Shapley, treats money as a commodity traded for other commodities in a multiplayer game. He continued to build on this model well into the 21st century, publishing three lectures on the theory of money and financial institutions as Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers in 2016.    

Although he considered himself a social scientist, Shubik remained involved with Operations Research and Management Science.  The abstract of his paper, “Game Theory and Operations Research,” to be given at the 1953 Annual Meeting of the Operations Research Society of America appeared in the first issue of the society’s  journal.  Shubik revisited the topic in “Game theory and operations research: Some Musings 50 years later" in the  50th anniversary issue of the journal.  He won Lanchester Prize in 1983 for his book, Game Theory in the Social Sciences, and the Koopman Prize in 1995 with Jerome Bracken for the application of game theory to nuclear coalitions and crisis stability.  

Among the hundreds of publications by  Shubik are papers covering a remarkable of applications, with topics such as business cycles, information, rationality, free choice, antitrust, data organization, the use of games in teaching, technology transfer, disarmament, accounting, nuclear strategy, intergenerational inheritance, publishing, European natural gas, football, capital asset pricing, reinsurance, terrorism, and bitcoins.  The publications include a paper, Demographic and clinical features of inclusion body myositis in North America, coauthored with Yale colleagues in Public Health, Medicine and Management as well as with his son-in-law, Lehigh University Economics Professor Seth Richards-Shubik.   Inclusion body myositis (IBM) is an autoimmune and degenerative disorder of skeletal muscle of unknown etiology.  The Inclusion Body Myositis Registry at Yale website states that Martin Shubik “is the driving force behind the study reported in the paper, is himself a sufferer of IBM, and helped fund much of the costs for undertaking the study.”  Martin Shubik succumbed to inclusion body myositis on August 22, 2018 at the age of 92. 

Other Biographies

Herfeld C. & Silva, D. (2012) "The Martin Shubik Papers: From Early Game Theory to the Strategic Analysis of War"  blog post in The Devils Tale: Dispatches from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.  12 December (link)

Education

University of Toronto, BA Mathematics 1947

University of Toronto, MA Political Economy 1949

Princeton University, AM Economics 1951

Princeton University, PhD Economics 1953 (Mathematics Genealogy Project)

Affiliations

Academic Affiliations
Non-Academic Affiliations

Key Interests in OR/MS

Methodologies
Application Areas

Oral Histories

Martin Shubik (2017) Interview by Matthew Sobel, December 8, 2017, Branford, CT.

NOTE:  The video chapter transcripts below are searchable, with search results displayed as marks on the time bar above the search box.  Click a mark to jump to the search word or phrase in the video and transcript, or click on any word in the transcript to jump to that point in the video.

Jump to Chapters

Chapter 1: Early Life
Chapter 2: High School and College
Chapter 3: Canadian Navy and Introduction to Economics and Game Theory
Chapter 4: Graduate Studies at Princeton
Chapter 5: Introduction to Operations Research
Chapter 6: Central Research Interests

Memoirs and Autobiographies

Résumé
Memoirs

Shubik M (1990) Game Theory at Princeton, 1949-1955: A Personal Reminiscence.  Working paper no. 123, John M. Olin program in normative political economy, Duke University Press, Durham NC (link)

Shubik M (2016) Three Lectures on the Theory of Money and Financial Institutions: Lecture 1: A Nontechnical Overview. Cowles Foundation Discussion Paper No. 2036, April 2016.  Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University, New Haven (link).  Presented at the Cowles Lunch Series, April 2016 (link)

Obituaries

Remembering Prof. Martin Shubik, 1926–2018.  Yale School of Management, August 30, 2018.  (link)

In memoriam: Martin Shubk.  Santa Fe Institute News, August 30, 2018.  (link)

Martin Shubik, Economist and Game Theory Pioneer, Dies at 92.  New York Times August 31, 2018. (link)

Beach, R (2018)  Yale professor recalled as brilliant economist, loving family man.  New Haven Register September 2, 2018 (link)

Malhotra, S (2018) Martin Shubik, eminent economist, dies at 92. Yale Daily News, September 4, 2018 (link)

Archives

DaCosta D. et al (2012)  "Guide to the Martin Shubik Papers, 1947-2016 and undated" David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University, Durham NC (link)

Awards and Honors

Frederick W. Lanchester Prize 1983

Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences 1985

Koopman Prize, Military Operations Research Section 1995

Distinguished Fellow, American Economic Association 2010