Leonid Hurwicz

University of Minnesota

August 21, 1917 - June 24, 2008

Scientific Discipline: Economic Sciences
Membership Type:
Member (elected 1974)

Noted mathematician and economist Leonid Hurwicz contributed greatly to the development of modern game theory. Hurwicz is best known for his creation of mechanism design, which essentially introduced the importance of analyzing the self-interest of various players in each situation. Hurwicz further explained that the ethical standards of some players, “interveners,” may in fact rise above the inclination to act within self-interest and consequently rebalance a corrupt system or equation.

In addition to his work in economics, Hurwicz, who was heavily involved with the Democratic Party, designed the “walking subcaucus” method, a form of proportional voting still employed during Democratic precinct caucuses. This system was designed to protect the rights of minority groups to elect delegates representing their interests.

Hurwicz graduated from Warsaw University with a degree in law in 1938. Having decided that he was more interested in pursuing economics, he attended the London School of Economics in 1930. Due to growing anti-Semitism across the continent, he fled to the United States, where he continued his studies at Harvard University and the University of Chicago. Hurwicz began teaching at the University of Minnesota in 1951 and remained involved with the institution until his death in 2008. Hurwicz received the National Medal of Science for Behavioral and Social Sciences in 1990. In 2007, at the age of ninety, Hurwicz was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics.

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