
NSF Lends Support
NSF took a different view, and began to support game theory mathematics in the 1950s. "The appeal of game theory always was the beauty of the mathematics and the elegance of the theorems," explains Daniel H. Newlon, senior program director for economics at NSF. "That was part of the appeal to a science agency."
A few years later, when NSF began to fund research in the social sciences, leading scholars urged the agency to continue its support for game theory. John Harsanyi of the University of California at Berkeley began receiving NSF grants in the 1960s, as did other major game theorists. "What kept NSF interested in game theory," says Newlon, "was the drive of people working in this field to understand how people interact, bargain, and make decisions, and to do it in a more rigorous, systematic fashion. For years, the problems were so difficult, given the state of computers and the mathematical tools at people's disposal, that you didn't see significant results. Yet NSF hung in there."
NSF went beyond supporting individual game theorists. It also sponsored conferences that gave game theorists the opportunity to gain visibility for their work. One such event was the annual Stanford Institute Conference in Theoretical Economics—run by game theorist Mordecai Kurtz—which NSF began to fund in the mid1960s. Another NSFfunded meeting at the State University of New York had two goals: to use game theory to advance the frontiers of economic research and to improve the skills of graduate students and junior faculty in economics departments. From time to time, NSF invited proposals for workshops and awarded grants for computers and other needed equipment.

