A Biography of Rapoport

Anatol Rapoport, Russian-born mathematician and biologist, is known for his research work in mathematical psychology, mathematical theories of social interaction, general systems theory, probabilistic theory of graphs and networks, game theory, and semantics. He has written numerous books and articles extending these areas into studies of psychological conflict in debates as large as world politics and disarmament.

Dr. Rapoport was born in Lozavaya, Russia on May 22, 1911. He came to the United States in 1922 and became a naturalized citizen in 1928. He received his BS in 1938, his MS in 1940, and his PhD in 1941, all from the University of Chicago. He received an honarary LHD degree from the University of Western Michigan in 1971. Dr. Rapoport was a Ford Foundation fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study of Behavioral Science during 1954 and 1955.

His extensive professional experience includes being a math instructor at Illinois Institute of Technology during 1946-1947, a research associate in math and biology, and an assistant professor, at the University of Chicago during 1947-1954. He was an associate professor during 1955-1960, and professor and senior research mathematician from 1960-1968, both at the Mental Health Research Institute, University of Michigan. During 1968 and 1969 he was a professor of applied math at the Technical University of Denmark, after which he returned to the Mental Health Research Institute as a professor of math and biology from 1969 to 1970. His current position (as of 1974) is that of professor of psychology and math at the University of Toronto, with a concurrent position as a consultant at the Mental Health Research Institute.

Memberships in various organizations include the American Math Society, the Mathematical Association of America, a charter member of the Biometric Society, the International Society for General Semantics, of which he was president from 1953 to 1955, the Society for General Systems Research, for which he was vice-president from 1963 to 1965 and president from 1965 to 1966, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Canadian Peace Research and Education Association, of which he was president from 1971 to 1972.

In addition to his eleven books and over 300 articles (again, as of 1974), Professor Rapoport was the editor of "General Systems", the associate editor of the "Review of General Semantics" and the "Bulletin of Math Biophysics." A selective list of his books and articles is contained in the Bibliography. His style of writing, considering his background in semantics, is highly readable and interesting. His book Strategy and Conscience has been compared to Jonathan Swift's Modest Proposal, "written as a protest against a glib and shallow fashion of contemporary thought that embodies and enhances manes inhumanity to man." It is also significant that the cover picture on his most recent book, Conflict in Man-made Environment is the famous (or infamous) Kent State picture of grief on the face of a girl witnessing the shooting death of her friends. Moral conflict is one of Dr. Rapoport's most important topics. His later books have included discussions of game theory in conflict resolutions on both an individual and international basis.

Professor Rapoport has worked closely with Dr. S. I. Hayakawa, and Dr. Hayakawa's comments on one of Dr. Rapoport's early articles is a significant statement about the power of Rapoport's writing. Hayakawa was the editor of the first issue of the Society for General Semantics' quarterly newsletter, "ETC: A Review of General Semantics." As Dr. Hayakawa says,

"It was a pleasant surprise, therefore when in November of 1943 I received by military airmail from Alaska, from a writer then unknown to me, a paper for publication in 'ETC.' which was so clearly a valuable contribution to semantic literature that its acceptance was a foregone conclusion before half the manuscript had been read. This paper, 'Newtonian Physics and Aviation Cadets,' published in 'ETC.' in the Spring 1944 issue (Vol. I, pp. 154-164), dealt with the unconscious assumptions underlying the thought habits of aviation cadets to whom the author had earlier taught physics. It was an exceedingly clear analysis of the way in which primitive and even animistic notions embedded in everyday language prevent the comprehension of physical laws; as such it constituted important substantiation of some of Korzybski's theories concerning the effect of language structure upon thought and behavior."
In Addition to Dr. Hayakawa, the prime mentor in Dr. Rapoport's career appears to be Dr. Nicolas Rashevsky, of the University of Chicago. Rashevsky is mentioned frequently in many of Dr. Rapoport's books, and several have been dedicated to Rashevsky: Also frequently mentioned in Dr. Rapoport's writings as influences include Bertrand Russell, Alfred Korzybski, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Alfred Jules Ayer, Lewis Richardson, Carl R. Rogers, Kenneth Boulding, and Jonathan Swift. In the prefaces to his books, Dr. Rapoport noted Hayakawa, Rashevsky, Charles Morris, Russell Meyer, Wendell Johnson, Irving J. Lee, J. David Singer, Karl W. Deutsch, Robert M Thrall, and William F. Lucas as influences on his works. The only time he listed any of his students was in Prisoner's Dilemma, which he co-authored with Albert M. Chammah. The list of fourteen students did not contain any names that have since become famous in this field.

In addition to his scientific expertise, Dr. Rapoport is an accomplished pianist. After attending public schools in revolutionary Russia and Chicago, he attended the State Academy of Music in Vienna, where he received degrees in composition, piano, and conducting. He was a touring concert pianist in Europe, the United States, and Mexico during 1933 to 1937. As soon as he received his PhD in mathematics on the eve of Pearl Harbor, he went directly from his graduation to Maxwell Field. He became a Captain in the US Air Corps, engaged in liason work between the American and Russian Air Forces. He served in Alaska and India. He was married on January 29, 1949 to the former Gwen Goodrich and they have three children, Anya, Alexander, and Charles Anthony. His current address (again, finally, as of 1974) is the Department of Psychology, University of Toronto, 100 St. George Sto, Toronto 181, Ontario, Canada.

This page was last updated on July 29, 1996, by Dr. Umpleby.