Oskar Morgenstern papers, 1866-1992 and undated 41.8 Linear Feet
The papers of Oskar Morgenstern, who is associated with the Austrian school of economics, span the years 1866-1992, although the bulk of the materials date from 1917 to 1977. They consist of correspondence, diaries, subject files, printed material, audiovisual material, manuscript and printed writings and their supporting papers, and biographical and bibliographical information about his career and publications. The collection principally concerns Morgenstern's work as an economic theorist, university professor, author and lecturer, and consultant to business and government.
The first two decades of Morgenstern's career as an economist, the 1920s and 1930s, were associated with the University of Vienna where he was educated and was a faculty member until his emigration to the United States in 1938. He published major books about economic forecasting (1928) and the limits of economics (1934) and numerous other writings in which the subjects of business cycles, prices, the depression of the 1930s, economic conditions in Europe and America, currency and exchange, and economic history and theory are prominent. Information about them is scattered throughout the Correspondence, Writings and Speeches, and Subject Files Series. Morgenstern's interests and correspondents were international, although principally European and American. A considerable part of the correspondence and writings during these years, and all of the diaries, are written in German. English is also prominent, and other languages also occur.
Morgenstern's output of publications during the 1940s, his first decade at Princeton University, was less extensive than in the 1930s, but he and John von Neumann published their classic Theory of Games and Economic Behavior in 1944. As Princeton editor Sanford G. Thatcher wrote in 1987, in sheer intellectual influence, it probably has stimulated more creative thinking, in a wider variety of fields of scholarship, than any other single book Princeton University Press has published. Information about this book and subsequent international developments in game theory pervades the Correspondence, Subject Files, and Writings and Speeches Series until Morgenstern's death. The elaboration of game theory was not only theoretical but also practical, and Morgenstern's writings and projects illustrate its applications, especially in U.S. military and foreign policy during the Cold War.
The Writings and Speeches Series, including the diaries, and the Subject Files Series are extensive for the 1940s as they are for the later decades of Morgenstern's career. The Correspondence Series, however, is extensive only for the 1920s, 1930s, and 1970s. Part of his correspondence apparently did not survive. However, Morgenstern routinely placed letters and other material in his files for subjects and writings, and many letters are to be found there. There are a number of letters for some correspondents, but extensive correspondence with an individual is not characteristic of this collection. A person's letters may be filed in more than one chronological group of correspondence.
Morgenstern published prolifically during the 1950s to 1970s. His major books focused on accuracy in economics (1950), organization (1951), national defense (1958), international finance and business cycles (1959), the peaceful uses of underground nuclear explosions (1967), stock market prices (1970), political, economic, and military forecasting (1973), and expanding and contracting economies in various societies (1976). These books and numerous articles and reviews reveal his interest in economic theory, international economic problems, and the application of mathematics and economics to public policy problems. The Writings and Speeches, Subject Files, and Correspondence Series document many of his publications and such topics as the Cold War, nuclear issues, military and naval affairs (especially the U.S. Navy), defense, space, economic analysis, game theory, the stock market, business cycles, mathematics and economics, statistical validity, and his work with John von Neumann, Martin Shubik, Friedrich A. von Hayek, Gottfried Haberler, Antonio de Viti de Marco, Eveline Burns, Gerald L. Thompson, N. N. Vorob'ev, and others.
Morgenstern taught at Princeton until his retirement in 1970 when be began teaching at New York University, and both schools are represented, particularly in the Subject Files Series. These files and the Writings and Speeches Series document his relationship with public and private organizations, especially the Office of Naval Research, the Rand Corporation, various foundations and scholarly societies, and Mathematica, a consulting firm that did contract work for government and business. Morgenstern was co-founder of Mathematica. The Mathematica Series contains correspondence, memos, policy reports, project proposals, and research papers. The institutions that are often mentioned include NASA, Office of Naval Research, and Sandia Corporation. Topics, among others, relate to analysis of military conflicts, economics of the space program, management research, or peaceful use of nuclear energy. Some materials related to Mathematica Series are still scattered across the rest of the collection.
Morgenstern habitually incorporated into his files pertinent thoughts or information that might be useful for later consideration. Consequently, the Subject Files and Writings and Speeches Series often include letters, memoranda, lecture notes, writings by others, mathematics, printed material, and other Items. Thus, a file for a topic or publication in 1963 may contain relevant dated material from other years and decades.
The diaries, 1917-1977, are relatively complete, but Morgenstern did not write daily or every month. There are significant gaps: 1918-1920; Feb.-May 1938; March 1946-Jan. 1947; and Sept. 1951-Feb. 1952. Shorter gaps also occur in April-May 1924, Sept. 1925; June-July 1948; and April 1949. The diaries are in the Writings and Speeches Series.
Morgenstern's library of printed material was donated to New York University.
Addition (06-067) (2452 items, 13.5 lin. ft.; dated 1935-1976) contains primarily published works by Morgenstern and his major co-authors such as John von Neumann and Gerald L. Thompson in English, French, Spanish, Italian, and German arranged in alphabetical order. Important works contained in this series include typed manuscript portions of Theory of Games and Economic Behavior with annotations, draft chapters of the Question of National Defense, Long Term Planning with Models of Static and Dynamic Open Expanding Economies, the Mathematica Economic Analysis of the Space Shuttle System and some correspondence, as well as supporting documentation and statistics. There are also three audiotape reels with Morgenstern's lectures.