John Nash’s Super Short PhD Thesis: 26 Pages & 2 Citations

nash thesis

When John Nash wrote "Non Cooperative Games," his Ph.D. dissertation at Princeton in 1950, the text of his thesis (read it online) was brief. It ran only 26 pages. And more particularly, it was light on citations. Nash's diss cited two texts: John von Neumann & Oskar Morgenstern's Theory of Games and Economic Behavior (1944), which essentially created game theory and revolutionized the field of economics; the other cited text, "Equilibrium Points in n-Person Games," was an article written by Nash himself. And it laid the foundation for his dissertation, another seminal work in the development of game theory, for which Nash won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 1994.

The reward of inventing a new field is having a slim bibliography.

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Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on our site in June, 2015.

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  • Garreth Byrne says:

    Sometimes doctoral dissertations are long on footnotes and bibliography – and short on original thinking. John Nash reversed the academic trend. Reminds me of the Renaissance painter who was asked for evidence of his ability to draw. He drew a near-perfect circle on a canvas, and was accepted by the master as an apprentice.

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