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Jim Simons, a Pioneer of Quantitative Trading, Dies at 86

A cutting-edge code breaker and geometer, Simons helped pioneer a revolution in trading, embracing a computer-oriented, quantitative style in the 1980s well ahead of the Wall Street crowd. He and his team employed trading algorithms and artificial intelligence to outperform the market—and the likes of Warren Buffett and George Soros. Later, Simons became a political donor and an influential philanthropist in the worlds of science, health, and education.

Simons, the son of a Boston shoe factory executive, developed an early passion for mathematics and ignored the advice of the family physician who urged him to steer clear of the field because he wouldn’t make a living. The warning proved misplaced.

Simons began his career as a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University. He proved popular with students. One year, Simons amused a graduate class by confessing that he didn’t know much about the topic—partial differential equations— but that he viewed teaching the course as a good way to learn.

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