James Harris ‘Jim’ Simons (born 1938) is an American hedge fund manager, mathematician, and philanthropist.
In 1982, Simons founded Renaissance Technologies, a private investment firm based in New York with over $15 billion under management.
Jim Simons is the son of a shoe factory owner in Massachusetts and received his B.S. degree in mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1958, and his Ph.D. degree, also in mathematics, from the University of California, Berkeley in 1961 at the age of 23. Between 1964 and 1968, he was on the research staff of the Communications Research Division of the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA). Simons taught mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University. In 1968, he was appointed chairman of the math department at Stony Brook University.
In 1976, Simons won the American Mathematical Society’s Oswald Veblen Prize in Geometry, for work that involved a recasting of the subject of area minimizing multi-dimensional surfaces and characteristic forms. This resulted in his proof of the Bernstein conjecture up to real dimension 8, and an improvement of a certain “regularity” result of Wendell Fleming on a generalized Plateau’s problem.
Simons’ most influential research involved the discovery and application of certain geometric measurements, and resulted in the Chern-Simons form (also known as Chern-Simons invariants, or Chern-Simons theory). In 1974, his theory was published in Characteristic Forms and Geometric Invariants, co-authored with the differential geometer Shiing-Shen Chern. The theory is used in theoretical physics, particularly string theory.
In 1978, he left academia to run an investment fund that traded in commodities and financial instruments on a discretionary basis.
For more than two decades, Simons’ Renaissance Technologies’ hedge funds, which trade in markets around the world, have employed mathematical models to analyze and execute trades, many automated. Renaissance uses computer-based models to predict price changes in easily-traded financial instruments. These models are based on analyzing as much data as can be gathered, then looking for non-random movements to make predictions.
Renaissance employs many specialists with non-financial backgrounds, including mathematicians, physicists and statisticians. The firm’s latest fund is the Renaissance Institutional Equities Fund (RIEF). RIEF has historically trailed the firm’s more well-known Medallion fund, a separate fund that only contains the personal money of the firm’s executives. Simons stepped down from day-rto-day management of the firm in 2009.
In 2006 Simons was named Financial Engineer of the Year by the International Association of Financial Engineers. In 2007 he was estimated to have personally earned $2.8 billion, $1.7 billion in 2006, $1.5 billion in 2005, (the largest compensation among hedge fund managers that year) and $670 million in 2004.
The wealth that Simons has amassed funds his many philanthropic pursuits. Simons is a benefactor for the mathematical sciences, supporting research projects, chairs, and conferences in the United States and abroad.
Simons and his second wife, Marilyn Hawrys Simons, co-founded the Paul Simons Foundation, a charitable organization which supports projects related to education and health, in addition to scientific research. Marilyn serves as the foundation’s President, while Simons serves as its Secretary and Treasurer. In memory of his son Paul, who he had with his first wife, Barbara Simons, he established Avalon Park, a 130-acre (0.53 km) nature preserve in Stony Brook.
In 1996, 34-year-old Paul was killed by a car while riding a bicycle near the Simons home. Son Nick drowned at age 23 while on a trip to Bali in Indonesia in 2003 . Nick had worked in Nepal and the Simonses have become large donors to Nepalese healthcare through the Nick Simons Institute. Simons also founded Math for America, a non-profit organization with the mission to significantly improve math education in public schools.
In early 2006, he led a group of directors of Renaissance Technologies Corporation and of Brookhaven Science Associates in donating $13 million to fund a budget shortfall of theBrookhaven National Laboratory that would have shut down the operations of the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider for 2006.
Also in 2006 Simons donated $25 million to Stony Brook University through the Stony Brook Foundation. The gift is intended to benefit the Mathematics and Physics departments at the university.
On February 27, 2008, then Gov. Eliot Spitzer announced a $60 million donation by the Simons Foundation to found the Simons Center for Geometry and Physics at Stony Brook, the largest gift to a public university in New York state history.
The family’s charitable foundation has committed $38 million to find the causes related to autism in recent years, and plans to spend another $100 million in what is becoming the largest private investment in the field of autism research, while Simons personally exerts extraordinary control over where and how his money is spent. Simons has provided DNA from his family for study, and has given assistance in helping solve research problems. When MIT asked for brain research funding, he stipulated that the project focus on autism and include scientists of his choosing.
Simons serves as trustee of Brookhaven National Laboratory, the Institute for Advanced Study, Rockefeller University, and the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley. He is also a member of the Board of the MIT Corporation.