Kantorovich, Leonid Vitaliyevich

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(19121986), Soviet mathematician and economist; founder of the theory of optimal planning and of linear programming.

Kantorovich showed early promise as a mathematical scientist, entering Leningrad University at the age of fourteen and graduating at eighteen. There he did research in set theory and soon met other great Soviet mathematicians, among them Andrey Nikolaevich Kolmogorov. By 1934 Kantorovich was made a full professor. After the war, he played an important role in the new Siberian Branch of the Academy of Sciences, moving to Novosibirsk in 1960.

During the 1930s Kantorovich contributed to the developing theory of partially ordered functional spaces. In 1938 he began his applied work in economics when he was asked by the Laboratory of the Plywood Trust to solve the problem of distributing raw materials to maximize equipment productivity under quantitative restrictions. This problem proved to be mathematically similar to that of optimizing a sown area or the distribution of transportation flows. Kantorovich solved this by using a kind of functional analysis he called the "method of resolving multipliers." By 1939 he had published a small book laying out the main ideas and algorithms of linear programming, later advanced independently by Tjalling Koopmans, George Dantzig, and others. Subsequently, Kantorovich combined linear programming with the idea of dynamic programming to advance methods for calculating wholesale prices and transportation tariffs, a norm for the effectiveness of capital investments and depreciation allowances, and other payments. This work, generalized to planning problems on the industrial, regional, or national level, led to his receiving the Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel in 1975, the only Soviet economist ever so honored. A full member of the USSR Academy of Sciences from 1960, Kantorovich received the Lenin Prize and many other honors in Russia and abroad.

See also: academy of sciences


Campbell, Robert W. (1961). "Marx, Kantorovich, and Novozhilov: Stoimost versus Reality." Slavic Review 20(3): 40218.

Kantorovich, Leonid V. (1965). The Best Use of Economic Resources. Oxford: Pergamon.

Martin C. Spechler