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Lloyd Shapley


He was a successful mathematician, expert on game theory, specialist in stochastic games, and maybe the first person to receive a Nobel Prize without realizing it.

Lloyd Stowell Shapley, son of distinguished astronomer Howard Shapley, was born on June 2, 1923, in Cambridge, Massachusetts and earned his PhD at Princeton University in 1954. From 1948 to 1981 (with a short break from 1950 to 1953, when he was at Princeton), Shapley worked for the Rand Corporation. He became a professor at the University of California in 1981 and a professor emeritus in 2000.

His main research field was mathematics, which he combined with other social sciences, and he was a well-known expert on game theory. Some popular theorems and mathematical phenomena bear his name, includiung the Shapley value, the Bondareva–Shapley theorem, the Shapley–Shubik power index, the Gale–Shapley algorithm, the Aumann–Shapley pricing, the Harsanyi–Shapley solution, the Snow–Shapley theorem for matrix games, and the Shapley–Folkman lemma and theorem.

Shapley received numerous awards for his work. In 1944, while he was in the U.S. Army, he was honored with the Bronze Star for his contribution to deciphering Soviet radio signals during World War II. In 1981, he received the John von Neumann Theory Prize for his research in mathematics. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem made him an Honorary PhD in 1986.

But the peak of his career was definitely the Sveriges Riksbank Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, better known as the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, which he and Alvin Roth were awarded in 2012 for “the theory of stable allocations and the practice of market design.” Shapley created a mathematical way to combine several people or institutions into “stable matches,” a theory that was used for job advertisements as well as organ donations and— Shapley’s main example—partner search. Shapley had never really been interested in economics or worked in that field, but his mathematical research laid the groundwork for Roth’s economics work.

Shapley’s last major public appearance was when he was awarded the Nobel Prize. Because of his declining mind, his lecture was a shocking demonstration of what happens when the Nobel Prize is awarded to an 89-year-old: He was unable to finish his lecture, restarted it twice, and did not seem to really understand where he was. The genius professor of mathematics just seemed like a dotard.


WEP, who was an eyewitness to this shameful moment, decided to put Prof. Shapley on his list to give him a chance for a last stable match in a popular game. Shapley died on March 12, 2016, at his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and earned WEP 7 points (2 for the hit, 5 for the solo). It is the first time WEP received points for a person he had met before.


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