About Kantorovich

Leonid Vitaljevich Kantorovich is a distinguished Russian scientist, both a mathematician and economist, member of the USSR Academy of Science, Nobel Prize Winner (1975).

He was born on January 19, 1912, in St. Petersburg. He showed his talent very early. He entered Leningrad University in 1926, being only fourteen. Having graduated in 1930, Kantorovich engaged in teaching activity and active scientific work. In 1932 he started his lecturing carreer, taking up a professorship in his alma mater in 1934 and the Doctoral degree in 1935. Kantorovich remained associated with Leningrad University and the Leningrad Branch of the Steklov Institute until he moved to Novosibirsk in 1960.

It was in Leningrad that Kantorovich achieved his main scientific results. Having started with challenging abstract problems, he had contributed greatly to theoretical mathematics already in the 1930s. Moreover, his studies of approximate calculus exerted a great influence on mathematics of that time. Functional analysis plays a special role in Kantorovich's mathematical activity. Being an author of the theory of ordered vector spaces, Kantorovich made functional analysis a natural language of computational mathematics. His article "Functional analysis and applied mathematics," published in Uspekhi Matematicheskikh Nauk in 1948 and awarded a Stalin prize, was a milestone. Its very title sounded paradoxical then, but the ideas soon became classical. Just a few years later computing mathematics seemed as impossible without functional analysis as without computers.

Kantorovich coordinated a number of specific computing projects, including his participation in the Soviet nuclear project and a project on rational stock cutting in industry. He realized the importance of computer technology at its very dawn and believed that this invention "will influence all human activities as greatly as did book-printing, steam engine, electricity, and radio."

In 1957 Kantorovich was invited to the newly created Siberian Branch of the USSR Academy of Sciences and was elected a Corresponding Member of the Academy. Since then his main works were devoted to economic problems.

Kantorovich's book The Best Use of Economic Resources published in 1959 (with English translation in 1965) faced hostile criticism from Soviet economists. It was the time when his first works on linear programming, translated into foreign languages, became famous and brought him recognition in the West. In the mid-1960s recognition came to him in Russia as well: in 1964 he was elected a full member of the USSR Academy of Sciences, and awarded the Lenin prize in 1965.

In 1975 he was awarded the Nobel prize in economics "for the contribution into the theory of optimal use of resources" (with Tyalling Koopmans).

In the early 1970s Kantorovich moved to Moscow where he continued his studies in economic analysis and the attempts to achieve practical implementation of his ideas and their integration into the actual decision-making processes.

Leonid Kantorovich passed away on April 7, 1986. He was buried at the Novodevichye cemetery in Moscow.

Professor Valery Makarov, one of Kantorovich's students wrote: "He is the author of first-class results in functional analysis, in the theory of functions, in computational mathematics. He has a number of great works on the theory of sets, the theory of computer programming, etc. He published a dozen reputable monographs on mathematics. It seems clear that Leonid Kantorovich is a mathematician to the core. <...> In reality, this is not the whole truth. The uniqueness of Kantorovich is precisely in that he is at the same time an outstanding economist, a scientist who changed fundamentally the understanding of economic events, the whole economic thinking, and became the founder of an original economic school."