Nassim Nicholas Taleb Biography

(Essayist and Mathematical Statistician Best Known for His Books: ‘The Black Swan’ and ‘Antifragile’)

Born: 1960

Born In: Amioun, Lebanon

Nassim Nicholas Taleb is a Lebanese–American author and scholar, whose research is primarily associated with problems of uncertainty, probability, and randomness. He is known for having proposed 'The Black Swan Theory.' It is a strategy he employed during his 20-year-career as a derivatives trader before he became a full-time writer. Using this strategy, he made money for various stakeholders, including himself. He gained fame for predicting the recession of the late 2000s and made a fortune out of it. He is the author of the five-volume philosophical essay on uncertainty titled 'Incerto.' Before he embarked on a writing career, he was a well-known options trader. He ventured into teaching, while he continued with his trading profession. He later retired from trading to become a full-fledged writer and scholar.

Quick Facts

Age: 64 Years, 64 Year Old Males


father: Najib Taleb

mother: Minerva Ghosn

Born Country: Lebanon

Statisticians American Men

Notable Alumni: Paris Dauphine University

Ancestry: Lebanese American

More Facts

education: University Of Massachusetts Amherst, University Of Paris, Paris Dauphine University

Childhood, Early Life & Education

Nassim Nicholas Taleb was born in 1960 in Amioun, Lebanon, to Minerva Ghosn and Nagib Taleb. He belonged to a wealthy and politically influential family.

Minerva was a researcher in anthropology, and Nagib was a physician and oncologist. His parents were Lebanese–Greek Orthodox Christians and held French citizenship.

He attended the ‘Grand Lycee Franco-Libanais,’ a highly reputed French lycee (sixth form of college, according to French education system), located in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon.

He earned his BS and MS degrees from the 'University of Paris,’ France.

In 1983, Nassim Nicholas Taleb obtained his MBA from the 'Wharton School’ of the ‘University of Pennsylvania,' Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.

He secured a PhD in management science from the 'Paris Dauphine University,' Paris, in 1998. He specialized in mathematical finance, under the guidance of French academic Helyette Geman, and completed his dissertation, 'The Microstructure of Dynamic Hedging.'

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Career Highlights in Finance

Nassim Nicholas Taleb started his career as a derivatives trader in December 1984.

While working with the bulge bracket investment bank 'The First Boston Corporation,' he earned enormous profits for the organization, especially during the stock market crash in October 1987.

He partnered with Mark Spitznagel, an American investor and hedge-fund manager, and founded the hedge-fund firm 'Empirica Capital LLC' in 1999. They followed an investment strategy that later came to be known as the 'Black Swan Strategy.'

In 2000, when the ‘NASDAQ’ dived, he made a fortune again. One of the funds of his firm, ‘Empirica Kurtosis LLC,' booked a massive 60% return in 2000. However, in the following 2 years, it made significant losses. Later, in 2003 and 2004, the fund made gains less than 10%.

In 2005, Nassim shut his company down to become a full-time author.

He became the scientific advisor to the hedge fund firm ‘Universa Investments’ in 2007. It was founded and owned by Taleb's former business partner, Spitznagel, and followed investment strategies that were similar to those of 'Empirica.'

In a 'Wall Street Journal' article in 2007, Nassim Nicholas Taleb said that he had quit trading in 2004 because he wished to become a writer and scholar.

Owing to his career spanning over 2 decades in the financial markets, he became financially independent quite early. Throughout this period, he worked with multiple investment banks, such as 'Credit Suisse First Boston,' the 'United Bank of Switzerland,' 'BNP-Paribas,' the 'Bankers Trust’ (now ‘Deutsche Bank’), 'Banque Indosuez’ (now ‘Crédit Agricole Corporate and Investment Bank’),' 'CIBC Wood Gundy,' and 'Chicago Mercantile Exchange.'

While in these organizations, he served at various positions, working as a derivatives trader, a fund manager, a managing director, and a global chief. He specialized in hedging non-linear risks and managing payoffs under complicated probability distributions.

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Teaching Career

Nassim Nicholas Taleb started teaching at the 'Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences,' the mathematical research school of 'New York University,’ New York, in 1999. He served the institute till 2005.

From January 2005, he served as the “Dean's Professor,” teaching decision sciences at the 'University of Massachusetts,' Amherst, Massachusetts, U.S. He served in the position for a year.

Between December 2007 and January 2009, he worked as a visiting research professor with the 'London Business School,' London, U.K.

Since 2008, he has been working with the 'New York University Tandon School of Engineering,' the engineering and applied sciences school of the 'New York University,' as the “Distinguished Professor of Risk Engineering.”

From 2009 to 2013, Nassim Nicholas Taleb served as the “Distinguished Research Scholar” at the 'Said Business School,' ‘University of Oxford,’ Oxford, U.K.

Along with Paul Wilmott, an English researcher, consultant, and lecturer in quantitative finance, he conducts courses in London and also sporadically teaches courses for the 'Certificate in Quantitative Finance.'

He is one of the co-faculties at the 'New England Complex Systems Institute,' Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.


In 1997, he wrote the book 'Dynamic Hedging: Managing Vanilla and Exotic Options,' a detailed guide to derivatives risk and risk management.

His book 'Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets' was published in 2001. The book spoke about the fallibility of man's decisions. It was the first segment of his multi-volume philosophical thesis on uncertainty, titled 'Incerto.'

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His next book, titled 'The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable,' was published in 2007. The book introduced readers to 'The Black Swan Theory' developed by him. The book spoke about the profound impact of sporadic and unforeseeable outlier occurrences and the tendency of humans to simplistically decipher these incidents in hindsight.

In 2010, he finished a book on aphorisms, titled 'The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms.' It was the third volume of 'Incerto' and challenged widely held beliefs and values. Six years later, he released the same book with almost 50% more content.

The fourth volume of 'Incerto,' titled 'Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder,' which was also the fourth and final segment of the originally released 'Incerto,' was published in 2012. This book showcased a development of the theories from his earlier works. The four works were bundled and published in November 2016.

In 2014, Nassim Nicholas Taleb was made the co-editor-in-chief of 'Risk and Decision Analysis,' an academic journal.

The book 'Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life' was published in February 2018. It further widened his ideas of the previous books. It was added to 'Incerto' as the fifth volume and released a year later.

‘The ‘Logic and Statistics of Fat Tails' was co-authored by him and released in 2018.

In 2020, ‘Statistical Consequences of Fat Tails: Real World Preasymptotics, Epistemology, and Applications' was published as “volume I” of 'Technical Incerto.'


In 2009, Taleb appeared on the 'Forbes' list of the “Most Influential Management Gurus.”

Two years later, he was featured on the “50 Most Influential” list curated by the magazine 'Bloomberg Markets.'

The ‘Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute' in Ruschlikon, Switzerland, named him to their list of the 100 most influential thought leaders in the world.

He has been a recipient of a lot of honorary doctorates, including one from the 'American University of Beirut' in 2016.

In recognition of his contribution toward decision making under complicated and less-idealized probabilistic structures using ‘Mathematica,’ he was honored with the 'Wolfram Innovator Award.'

Family & Personal Life

Nassim Nicholas Taleb married Cynthia Anne Shelton at the 'St. Anne's Episcopal Church' in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., on January 30, 1988.

Cynthia is an MBA from the 'New York University.' Earlier, she graduated from the 'Woodward Academy' in Atlanta and the 'University of Georgia,' Athens, Georgia.

They have two children, Sarah Taleb and Alexander Taleb.

In 2015, he co-founded the 'Real World Risk Institute.'

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