Rienhard Selten (izquierda), José Saramago (centro) y Marcelino Oreja (derecha) en una reunión de la Academia (2006)

Rienhard Selten (izquierda), José Saramago (centro) y Marcelino
Oreja (derecha) en una reunión de la Academia (2006)

Selten took his seat in 1998 along with five other renowned intellectuals and scientists

Economist and mathematician Reinhard Selten, member of the European Academy of Yuste, died on 23 August in Poland. Selten had been a member of the European Academy of Yuste since 1998 when he took the Shakespeare seat in the Charles V European Award ceremony, attended by then Prime Minister of Belgium, Wilfried Martens.

The German economist was appointed as an academic member together with five other renowned European intellectuals, scientists and artists: Portuguese author José Saramago, English playwright Peter Levin Shaffer, Swiss Nobel Prize for Physics winner Heinrich Rohrer, novelist and semiologist Umberto Eco, and Spanish painter Antonio López. The academics’ seats are named after illustrious Europeans: Rembrandt, Cervantes, Christopher Colombus, Plato and Marcus Tullius Cicero.

Selten was born on 5 October 1930 in the German city of Breslau, which is now Wroclaw in present day Poland. He studied mathematics in Frankfurt and went on to teach at the Universities of Berkeley (California, USA), Berlin, and Bielefield. Latterly, in 1984 he was appointed Professor of Economics at the University of Bonn. His area of interest was in the application of game theory to complex economic relationships, with his work having a particular focus on games such as poker and chess, “where players utilise strategies based on what their opponents will do next”. In 1994, together with Americans John Harsanyi (who died in 2000) and John Forbes Nash (who died last year), he received the Nobel Prize for Economics for their work on”Game Theory”.

Throughout his appointment as a member academic at Yuste, Reinhard Selten played an active role in activities and projects at the Foundation. He was a member of the jury for the Charles V European Award in 2002 when Mikhail Gorbachev was awarded the prize, and attended the award ceremony at the Royal Monastery of Yuste. Whilst at Yuste he took part in a conference entitled ‘Social Needs in XXI Century Europe’, along with Mikhail Gorbachev and philosopher Fernando Savater. The event was organised by Caja de Extremadura, and Selten gave a speech on ‘Sustainable ecological, social, and economic development’ in which he called for greater European contributions towards education and research, as well as the need to “influence policies against global warming and the process of desertification”. He was already calling for member states to implement “transitory provisions” in relation to immigration in order to regulate the flow of people through the Union. He said “immigration is not something you need to stop” because it sustains demographic rates and the European economy. In his speech he also declared himself against the amalgamation of banking entities because, from his point of view “they rarely end up being profitable”.

The Yuste academic also supported the Yuste Declaration on ‘The Ageing Population of Europe’ which brought together academics at the Royal Academy of Yuste in 2004: https://www.fundacionyuste.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/envejecimiento2004_es.pdf. He also attended a forum on the future of Europe entitled ‘A Social and Citizen-led Europe’ in June 2006 at the Royal Monastery of Yuste: https://www.fundacionyuste.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/europasocial2006_es.pdf. Reinhard Selten was interviewed in issues 7-8 of the Revista Pliegos de Yuste published by the European Academy of Yuste Foundation http://www.pliegosdeyuste.eu/n78pliegos/pdf/2008-7-8-95-100.pdf. He was a supporter and member of the assessment committee for the Hidranatura project: a project encouraging training in efficient water management at the University of Extremadura Campus of Excellence. Reinhard Selten’s latest contribution to the European Academy of Yuste Foundation was in his role as jury member for the Charles V European Award: awarded to Italian Sofia Corradi who set up the Erasmus programme.

The Trust, Academy Members, and all the team at the European Academy of Yuste Foundation feel an enormous sense of loss for European culture at the passing of a great person, intellectual, thinker, and European supporter. This is added to the pain felt by not only his family, but all those who have known him and studied him at this sad time.