Communications and Publications
Princeton, New Jersey 08544-5264
TEL 609/258-3600 FAX 609/258-1301
Release: January 26, 1995
Contact: Jacquelyn Savani (609/258-5729)
Albert William Tucker
PRINCETON, N.J., January 26, 1995 -- Albert William Tucker, aged
89, former chair of Princeton University's Mathematics Department
and originator of the influential paradox known as the "Prisoner's
Dilemma," died yesterday of complications from pneumonia at the
Presbyterian Home of Meadow Lakes in Hightstown, N.J. The Albert
Baldwin Dod Professor of Mathematics, Emeritus, was a resident of
Tucker, who began his career in mathematics as a topologist, is
best known for his pioneering work in linear programming and game
theory. He was a mentor to the generation of mathematicians who
studied at Princeton from 1940 to 1970.
In 1950 addressing an audience of psychologists at Stanford
University, where he was a visiting professor, Tucker created the
Prisoner's Dilemma to illustrate the difficulty of analyzing non-
zero-sum games (scenarios in which one contestant's victory is not
necessarily the other contestant's defeat). Tucker's simple
paradox has since given rise to a vast literature in subjects as
diverse as philosophy, biology, sociology, political science, and
economics, as well as game theory itself.
The Prisoner's Dilemma depicts two partners in crime confronted
with the following choices: if one confesses and the other does
not, the confessor goes free and the other goes to jail for a long
time; if neither confesses, each goes to jail for a short time; if
both confess, each goes to jail for an intermediate length of
time. Each reasons that he is better off confessing because if
the other confesses, he receives an intermediate sentence by
confessing and a long sentence by not confessing; if the other
does not confess, he goes free by confessing and receives a short
sentence by not confessing. Since each reasons this way, each
confesses, and so each is given an intermediate sentence; whereas
if each had not confessed, each would have received a short
Born in Ontario, Canada, on Nov. 28, 1905, Tucker earned his B.A.
in 1928 and his M.A. in 1929, from the University of Toronto. He
received his Ph.D. in 1932 from Princeton. In 1932-33, he was a
National Research Fellow at Cambridge, Harvard, and the University
of Chicago. He joined the Princeton faculty in 1933, advancing to
assistant professor in 1934, to associate professor in 1938, and
to full professor in 1946. He was named to the Dod professorship
in 1953, the same year he became department chair. Tucker retired
to emeritus status in 1974.
In 1948 Tucker initiated a research project on linear programming
and game theory. With support from the Office of Naval Research,
this project continued until 1972, sharing with the Rand
Corporation the distinction of being the major center for game
theory and mathematical programming research in the world. Many
of his doctoral students during this period became leaders in the
field, and one, John F. Nash, was awarded the 1994 Nobel Prize in
Economics for the 1950 Ph.D. thesis Tucker supervised.
Tucker initiated the paperback photo-offset series Annals of
Mathematics Studies, the first such series to publish advanced
mathematics at a reasonable price. He co-edited six volumes of
the series, five on game theory and one on linear inequalities.
In 1993 he co-authored with Evar Nering the book Linear Programs
and Related Problems.
In addition to his visiting professorship at Stanford in 1949-50,
Tucker was a visitor at institutions including MIT, Cornell,
Dartmouth, Haverford College, the Mathematical Association, and
The Rockefeller Institute. He was a Fulbright Lecturer at four
Australian universities in 1956 and lectured at several European
universities in 1959 for the Organization for European Economic
During World War II, Tucker taught in the Army Specialized
Training Program and the Navy Pre-Rader Program. He also served
as associate director of the Fire Control Research Group at
Princeton, working on target location and gunnery direction
problems for the Office of Scientific Research and Development and
for the Frankfort Arsenal.
Tucker also devoted himself to improvement of the mathematics
curricula in colleges and schools, serving on several national
committees and chairing the Commission on Mathematics of the
College Entrance Examination Board.
Among other leadership roles and associations, Tucker was council
member and trustee of the American Mathematical Society, president
of the Mathematical Association of America, vice president of the
American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), chair
of the Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences (CBMS), and a
member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
The recipient of an honorary degree from Dartmouth in 1961, Tucker
won the Mathematical Association's Award for Distinguished Service
to Mathematics in 1968 and was a co-winner in 1980 of the von
Neumann Theory Prize, awarded by the Operations Research Society
of America and the Institute of Management Science.
He is survived by his wife, Mary of Princeton; three children,
Alan C. of Stony Brook, N.Y., Thomas W. of Hamilton, N.Y., and
Barbara Cervone of Barrington, R.I.; and six granddchilren.
Internment is private. A memorial service is planned for the
spring. Contributions in lieu of flowers should be made to the
Mathematical Association of American, 1529 18th St., NW,
Washington, DC 20036. Arrangements are by the Hodge Funeral Home