Melvin Dresher, early 1940s
|Died||June 4, 1992 81) (aged|
Kern, California, US
|Alma mater||Yale University|
|Known for||Prisoner's dilemma|
Melvin Dresher (born Dreszer; March 13, 1911 – June 4, 1992) was a Polish-born American mathematician, notable for developing, with Merrill Flood, the game theoretical model of cooperation and conflict known as the Prisoner's dilemma while at RAND in 1950 (Albert W. Tucker gave the game its prison-sentence interpretation, and thus the name by which it is known today).
Dresher came to the United States in 1923. He obtained his B.S. from Lehigh University in 1933 and his Ph.D. from Yale University in 1937; the title of his dissertation was "Multi-Groups: A Generalisation of the Notion of Group." Dresher worked as instructor of mathematics, Michigan State College, 1938–1941; statistician, War Production Board, 1941–1944; mathematical physicist, National Defense Research Committee, 1944–1946; professor of mathematics, Catholic University, 1946–1947; research mathematician, RAND, from 1948.
He was the author of several RAND research papers on game theory, and his widely acclaimed The Mathematics of Games of Strategy: Theory and Applications (originally published in 1961 as Games of Strategy: Theory and Applications) continues to be read today.
Dresher's research has been referred to and discussed in a variety of published books, including Prisoner's Dilemma by William Poundstone and A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar.
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Two members of a criminal gang are arrested and imprisoned. Each prisoner is in solitary confinement with no means of communicating with the other. The prosecutors lack sufficient evidence to convict the pair on the principal charge, but they have enough to convict both on a lesser charge. Simultaneously, the prosecutors offer each prisoner a bargain. Each prisoner is given the opportunity either to betray the other by testifying that the other committed the crime, or to cooperate with the other by remaining silent. The possible outcomes are:
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