Date: 24 Feb 2011

Leonid Vital’evich Kantorovich

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Abstract

Leonid Kantorovich was one of the twentieth century’s outstanding mathematicians who applied his immense talents to the study of economic problems of industry and national economic systems and, thus, helped to change not only the field of mathematical economics, but also the economic planning system of the USSR. His initial economic research started with the analysis of industrial production problems, which led him to state and resolve basic problems in linear programming (LP) in 1939, before such structures were studied in the West. He recognized the applicability of his work to a wide range of industrial and transportation problems; he also generalized his ideas to show how the USSR could improve its allocation of resources. This work was not looked at kindly by the Soviet government and academic economists. Conducted under very trying conditions, his research was often maligned, causing him to stop his efforts in the early 1940s. Leonid’s seminal work was unknown to the West, especially to those in the U.S. who independently developed LP from 1947 and established it as a major analytical tool for business, industry, and government. When, in the late 1950s, the situation within the USSR changed and the importance of Leonid’s work was recognized, his ideas led to a new school of Soviet economics that drew upon his mathematical economic theories.