FIRST EDITION OF NASH'S DOCTORIAL THESIS, IN WHICH HE FORMULATES THE THEORY OF NON-COOPERATIVE GAMES AND CLARIFIES WHAT CAME TO BE KNOWN AS THE "NASH EQUILIBRIUM"—WORK FOR WHICH HE WON THE NOBEL PRIZE: "NON-COOPERATIVE GAMES," 1951
NASH, John. "Non-Cooperative Games." IN: Annals of Mathematics, Second Series, Volume 54, Number 2, pp. 286-95. Princeton: Princeton University, July-November, 1951. Large octavo, original gray paper wrappers expertly respined. Housed in a custom chemise and clamshell box. $8800.
First edition of the complete issue containing Nash's doctorial thesis—including a clarification of the "Nash equilibrium" he introduced in a brief two-page paper the year before—a significant contribution to game theory and economics, the impact of which "is comparable to that of the discovery of the DNA double helix in the biological sciences" (Journal of Economic Literature), work for which he was awarded the 1994 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences.
This publication of Nash's doctoral thesis had an enormous impact. As a graduate student at Princeton, Nash encountered game theory, which had been recently articulated by John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern. While their theory dealt with two-person zero-sum games, or "pure rivalries," Nash explored rivalries with the possibility of mutual gain, in which each player acts independently and no outside authority enforces predetermined rules. His idea that any game such as this has one equilibrium point became known as the "Nash equilibrium," a founding concept in analyzing economic behavior, and the one for which he won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 1994. (He first published his proof of this "equilibrium point" in a brief two-page paper, "Equilibrium Points in N-Person Games," in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 1950.)
In his biographical essay for the Nobel Prize, Nash humbly noted, "As a graduate student I studied mathematics fairly broadly and I was fortunate enough, besides developing the idea which led to 'Non-Cooperative Games,' also to make a nice discovery relating to manifolds and real algebraic varieties. So I was prepared actually for the possibility that the game theory work would not be regarded as acceptable as a thesis in the mathematics department and then that I could realize the objective of a Ph.D. thesis with the other results." Sylvia Nasar's award-winning biography, A Beautiful Mind, as well as the 2002 Best Picture of the same title, chronicled Nash's devastating struggle with schizophrenia, which caused his long exile from elite mathematics. Faint owner signature to front wrapper.