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The World the Game theorists Made$
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Paul Erickson

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226097039

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226097206.001.0001

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From “Military Worth” to Mathematical Programming

From “Military Worth” to Mathematical Programming

(p.75) Chapter Three From “Military Worth” to Mathematical Programming
The World the Game theorists Made

Paul Erickson

University of Chicago Press

It is well known that in the immediate postwar period game theory was closely associated with (and substantially dependent upon) military patronage from organizations like the RAND Corporation or the Office of Naval Research. In addition, the brand of game theory to emerge through this patronage was substantially different from that presented in von Neumann and Morgenstern’s 1944 book, being focused principally upon the mathematics of the two-person zero-sum game. This chapter seeks to interpret these developments in light of the transition from the “hot war” of World War II to the Cold War, especially the way that the professional and disciplinary concerns of military-funded applied mathematicians (and some mathematical economists) intersected with this new atmosphere of defense reconversion and budgetary consolidation. In this context, more than solving any particular problem, game theory (and the mathematics of the two-person zero-sum game in particular) proved capable of drawing together the heterogeneous activities the mathematicians had performed on behalf of the military – most notably “operations research,” “military worth” assessment, budget programming, and logistics research – under a theoretical framework with at least some academic credibility.

Keywords:   RAND Corporation, Office of Naval Research, operations research, linear programming, logistics

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