Autobiographical sketch (ca. 1988)
AR was born on May 22, 1911 in the south of Russia. Chaotic conditions during the civil war following the revolution drove the family, frequently separated by paralysis of communication and transportation, from place to place. There were no regularly functioning schools. AR was taught by his parents, who were themselves self-taught. He showed an early aptitude in music and began to play piano at the age of five, but there was no question of systematic study. Finally the family succeeded in emigrating to America and settled in Chicago.
In 1927 AR graduated from high school, third in a class of 170. In 1928 he won first prize (a grand piano) in a piano contest sponsored by the music school he attended, and the following year placed second in an all-Chicago contest for young pianists.
In 1929 AR went to Vienna, where he spent the next five years studying at the State Academy of Music, receiving diplomas in piano, composition, and conducting.
AR's debut as a concert pianist took place in Vienna in March, 1933. In December of that year, he appeared as soloist with a symphony orchestra, playing three piano concertos in one evening. Concert engagements in Hungary, Austria, Poland, and Italy followed. For obvious reasons, however, Germany, then musically the most important country in Europe, was closed to him.
AR returned to America in 1934 continuing his concert career in the U.S. and in Mexico. At the same time, he developed a keen interest in mathematics. After considerable oscillation, he decided to pursue systematic studies in that field and enrolled in the University of Chicago in 1927, the oldest freshman in his class. He was awarded a Bachelor of Science degree in 1938, and a Ph.D. degree in mathematics in 1941, passing the final oral examination on December 5.
Three days later AR volunteered for service in the navy but was rejected because of near-sightedness. Within two weeks, however, he was engaged as a civilian instructor of aviation cadets in Maxwell Field, Alabama, to teach mathematics and physics. He was commissioned as first lieutenant in June, 1942, and soon afterward was transferred to Alaska, where in view of his knowledge of Russian he served as liaison officer between the U.S. and Soviet air forces.
In 1944 AR was transfered to India (now Bangladesh), where he served as supply and evacuation officer until the end of the war.
Demobilized in 1946, AR returned to academic life. He first taught mathematics at the Illinois Institute of Technology, then joined the Committee on Mathematical Biophysics (later Committee on Mathematical Biology)headed by Nicolas Rashevsky. AR's first scientific papers appeared in the Bulletin of Mathematical Biophysics in 1947. They dealt with mathematical models of parasitism and symbiosis. The basic ideas of those papers, revolving around the dynamics of exploitation and cooperation, remained at the focus of AR's interest to the present day.
AR's first book, Science and the Goals of Man, was published in 1950. Among the enthusiastic reviewers was Philipp Frank, a close associate of Einstein. The basic theme of that book was the responsibility of the scientist as a human being and as a member of a world community devoted to the enlightenment and integration of humanity. In one form or another this idea dominates the orientation represented in AR's fifteen books published since then.
In 1954 AR was awarded a year's fellowship at the newly founded Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences in Stanford, California. During that year the Society for General Systems Research was founded of which AR was one of four founding members. It was at the Center that AR met with several social scientists who were to play a leading role in the rapid development of the American school of social science during the 1950's and 1960's. This development was characterized by two strong tendencies. One was an extension to the behavioral sciences of methods heretofore confined to the natural sciences (rigorous empirical testing of theories, mathematization). The other was an increasing appreciation of the growing importance of value-oriented social science, opposing the conception of all science as value-free and therefore morally neutral and merely instrumental. According to the latter view, the scientist's job was confined to showing how to reach given goals (without taking the responsibility of inquiring by whom and for what these goals are given) and eschewing any attempt to indicate what the goals of any social policy or, indeed, of science itself (regarded as a human activity on the global scale) should be.
In 1955 AR joined the faculty of the University of Michigan as one of the first three faculty members of the Mental Health Research Institute in the Department of Psychiatry. It was at Michigan where AR started his researches on war and peace, conflict and conflict resolution. He was one of the earliest investigators to use experimental games as tools of research on conflict and cooperation. The famous Prisoner's Dilemma game has been associated with his name ever since.
In 1970 AR decided to leave the United States. He emigrated to Canada, where he was appointed professor in two departments, psychology and mathematics, at the University of Toronto.
After mandatory retirement at age 65 in 1976, AR continued for a year at the University of Toronto, then spent several years as a roaming visiting professor in American, European, and Japanese universities. He became Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Toronto in 1980. In that year he was invited to the Institute for Advanced Studies in Vienna as director and was made honorary professor at the University of Vienna.
Returning to Toronto in 1984, he was appointed Professor of Peace Studies in University College, University of Toronto and elected president of Science for Peace. Presently he is education director of that organization.
AR married Gwen Goodrich in 1949. They have three children: Anya (born 1952) received the degree of Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Tennessee in 1982. Alexander (born in 1957) graduated from the Vienna Hochschule für Musik (which AR attended in his youth) in 1982. He is currently on the faculty of the Royal Conservatory of Music and assistant in the Department of Music, University of Toronto. He is a candidate for the doctoral degree in musical composition. Charles Anthony (born in 1962), a violist, is a candidate for a doctoral detgree in music at the Julliard School of Music in New York.
A son, Leo, was born to Alexander and his wife Katherine in 1987. Katherine, a violist, is on the faculty of the Royal Conservatory of Music.
Gwen has been doing administrative work for Science for Peace since 1984 and is Editor of the Bulletin, the newletter of the organization.