Jim Simons (1938-2024): A mind at play in the real world

May 10, 2024

This article was originally featured on the Berkeley Light the Way website.

A man wearing a suit and tie stands with his arm around a woman with a floral dress and black sweater, both at a venue set up like an awards ceremony or function

Jim and Marilyn Simons; photo by Kelley Cox.

The Berkeley community mourns the death of Jim Simons, a brilliant mathematician, maverick businessman, and extraordinarily generous philanthropist whose legacy will sustain generations of researchers to come.

Asked about his transition in the 1970s from academia to the “real world” of finance, Simons replied that “math is more the real world than business.”

Throughout his life and career, Simons, who received his Ph.D. in mathematics from Berkeley in 1962, traveled through the realms of higher math, making significant and award-winning contributions to research in string theory, topology, and condensed matter physics. A generative collaborator who was also known for his skill at poker, he brought his insights about the abstract realms of math to serve the public good in concrete and lasting ways.

Simons remained deeply connected to Berkeley through his significant support of and engagement with the mathematical and physical sciences. 

“Jim Simons had a tremendously positive impact at Berkeley that will continue to expand exponentially,” says Chancellor Carol Christ. “As a mathematician working with Berkeley Professor Shiing-Shen Chern, he developed a theory, the Chern-Simons Invariant, which remains a foundational tenet of theoretical physics. As a philanthropist, he was invariably generous, providing resources that have enabled generations of Berkeley researchers to advance work in many arenas, including physics, astronomy, and computer science.”

Read more at the Light the Way website >