(posted by Rakesh Vohra, 1 September 2016)
Reinhard Selten, winner of the 1994 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics for his contributions to Game Theory (subgame perfect!), passed away on August 23rd of this year. He met his wife Elisabeth Lang Reiner through their mutual interest in Esperanto. So enthusiastic was he about Esperanto that he once ran as an Esperanto party candidate for the European Parliament! He also wrote a book on Game Theory in Esperanto: “Enkonduko en la Teorion de Lingvaj Ludoj – Cu mi lernu Esperanton?”
Selten was born in Breslau, 3 years prior to the birth of the Third Reich. His parents (one Jewish and the other Protestant) had initially decided to raise him without a religious affiliation. However, in 1933 they had him baptised a Protestant in the hope of saving him from persecution. Barred from school at 14 and took up work as an unskilled laborer. With the fall of Germany, Selten and his remaining family slipped the Soviet noose on the last train out of Breslau. He continued as farm laborer until German schools were reopened in 1946.
In 1957, Selten received his Masters degree from Frankfurt, and it was there he developed his lifelong interest in experimental Economics. This was followed by an invitation to visit with Morgenstern and his group at Princeton. It was on this visit that he met Aumann, Maschler and Harsanyi (with whom he would share the prize) and cemented his interest in Game Theory.
Selten returned to Germany, rising to become an Economics elder statesman in Germany. He was instrumental in building an active Game Theory at Bielefeld and an experimental economics laboratory at Bonn. His contributions to Game Theory are now a standard part of any Game Theory course, even an undergraduate one.