Hurwicz was educated and grew up in Poland, and became a refugee in the United States after Hitler invaded Poland in He was a research associate for the Cowles Commission between and In he became an associate professor of economics at Iowa State College. Hurwicz joined the University of Minnesota in , becoming Curtis L. Carlson Regents Professor of Economics in
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Since Adek, Zina and Leo returned to Warsaw early in probably February , Leo would have been less than a year and a half old when this statement was made. Max was right: Leo would go on to give the world novel concepts and frameworks still used today in fields from economics to social science to political science and even data networking for problems like interdomain routing on the internet.
These frameworks include incentive compatibility and mechanism design. He was at the time the oldest person ever to receive a Nobel Prize in any category. One of his earlier contributions, presented in an article , was the Hurwicz Criterion , which offers a formula for balancing optimism and pessimism when making decisions under uncertainty.
The picture below shows Leo with his parents. If so, Leo might have been four or five years old. Leo was tutored by his mother at home until he was nine not an unusual practice at that time. Adek was a lawyer in Warsaw and encouraged his son to follow in his footsteps. His student ID is shown elsewhere on this page. At the same time, he attended the Warsaw Conservatory as a piano student. Music was an avocation that he continued to pursue throughout his life.
In order to get his law degree, Leo had to take some economics courses. The Great Depression , which had begun when Leo was just 12 years old, was still in full swing.
So economics was, perhaps more than usual, at the forefront of current events. One of the topics being passionately debated was the relative merits of free competition versus a centrally planned economy. Some observers, like Oskar Lange and later Abba Lerner believed that central planning, combined with elements of market pricing, was the solution.
Other economists, such as Ludwig von Mises and later Friedrich Hayek , maintained that free markets were inherently superior to planned economies. Interestingly, Henry , in his Shoah Foundation testimony, explains that anti-semitism also played a role in allowing my father to leave Poland. Normally, a young man of his age could be drafted into the Polish infantry.
Thus, my father was excused from serving in the Polish Army. He was accepted. Kaldor was a Hungarian immigrant with a thick accent.
Another of his professors was Dennis Robertson , a former collaborator with Keynes who had just taken up a professorship at the LSE in They said I had to extend the passport, and then they could extend the visa. Well, the Poles were making difficulties with extending the passport. So I tried to get the British to permit me to stay a little longer. But they said that was not their custom. And then what do we get? Because he was also you know, 22 years old, so he really should be in the army, too.
The first thing I did was to go to Paris. And I stayed in Paris for a couple of weeks, maybe a month, of the year I was at that point in Paris. I took the first train to Bern. That was very good, because otherwise I would have been caught in France under the Nazis. I really, as usual, paid attention to the headlines. But then what it gave was the address of the Kotzins in Chicago: Dickens Avenue.
Actually, many dialects. The U. Consulate in Switzerland, which was in Zurich in Switzerland, said they must have certificates of good conduct from each of the countries I had occupied in the previous five years, which was Poland which was occupied by the Nazis and England and France. The British said they were not in the custom of issuing certificates of good conduct. And the U. Consulate in Zurich insisted on that. Now, as Leo was well aware, the Swiss wanted to reduce the foreign population in their country.
He had appealed to the Director of the Institute for help see his letter elsewhere on this page , apparently successfuly, since he managed to remain until June.
A minor aside: Assuming Leo composed this letter himself, his English now seems to be excellent. One hint that he may have indeed composed it on his own is the strikeover near the end of the fourth line.
He got it very quickly, because it was a collegial relationship between the police in Western European countries. Once he had his visas, it would seem that Leo departed with all due haste. He did not wait to get most of the paper certificates that would provide proof of the courses he took. Instead, he asked the Graduate Institute to mail them to him in the United States. Taft in Cinccinnati, Ohio. Leo flew from Switzerland to Barcelona, and then went by train, first to Madrid, then to Lisbon, Portugal.
The scariest part of this journey, Leo said [ 7 ], was taking off from a mountainous location in eastern Switzerland, most likely Locarno. On a little shuttle bus after landing in Barcelona, he was chatting with a Portuguese businessman who was sitting next to him.
Leo looked out the window and saw planes with swastikas. And I bought passage on an Italian boat. I already had the visa. This was early June. And just at that time, Italy joined Germany as partner in the war. So I was stuck again without money. I was in Lisbon already by that time. I got that far. First I went to the Italian shipping lines and I asked for my money back. They just laughed at me. Then I went to the harbor police, and essentially I used a variant of my trick in Geneva. The dictator was an economist.
And the police could do anything they wanted. Leo booked passage on a Greek ship, the Nea Hellas , departing from Lisbon on August 2, , arriving in New York, apparently on August 11 , though it had been scheduled for the 10th. The name of the boat somehow got changed to Nea Agllas in an article that came out when Leo received the Nobel Prize.
At that point, Greece was neutral in the war. Helen was the sister of Sara Lea, wife of Max. Moritz died in , but Helen lived until By the time Leo arrived, she had moved from Canada to the United States.
She was about seven at the time. He also began attending classes at the University of Chicago, most importantly those of Oskar Lange , who provided a counterpoint to the anti-socialist arguments of Hayek and Mises. As far as I know, Mises was in New York at this time. He does not say anything about studying with Mises in Chicago. But I had no other offers.
In fact, it was a miracle I had this one. Lange provided four names but recommended Leo as follows:. He has an excellent mind, and is in my opinion, the best of the candidates on this list.
He has quite a background in mathematical statistics, and has quite extensive knowledge of analysis. Before becoming an economist he was a theoretical physicist. He also did numerical work in experimental physics.
He is really one of the very best I have had among students. In addition, he needs a job very badly, because he has no income at all. In fact, somewhat astonishingly, Leo never did receive any degree other than the LL.
Apparently, there is some disagreement about exactly what Leo did during this short tenure at MIT. The new system was very unpopular, as were those who were held responsible for it Leo and Samuelson.
Leo returned to Chicago in mid-June, , with improved prospects now that he had worked for Samuelson. In July, , Leo was hired as a research associate at the Cowles Commission.
He continued in this position until June, The Cowles Commission was instrumental in pioneering an analytical, mathematical approach to economics. It was also around this time, probably in August or September, , that Leo got a postcard from Henry and Zina in Kutaisi, Georgia, and a telegram from Adek in Fergana, Uzbekistan, and was able to help them reunite in Georgia.
They had four children: Sarah , Michael , Ruth and Maxim The picture below shows the family, probably in around , judging from the fact that Maxim is not in the picture yet. The lowest red stamp on the right indicates that he received his diploma in law on June 13, Click for larger version.
Leonid Hurwicz Economic Sciences Under ideal conditions, markets should ensure an efficient allocation of resources. In practice, however, this is rarely the case. Competition is not completely free, agents protect their own interests or act behind closed doors, consumers are ill-informed and capitalist ambition may have adverse social costs.
Since Adek, Zina and Leo returned to Warsaw early in probably February , Leo would have been less than a year and a half old when this statement was made. Max was right: Leo would go on to give the world novel concepts and frameworks still used today in fields from economics to social science to political science and even data networking for problems like interdomain routing on the internet. These frameworks include incentive compatibility and mechanism design. He was at the time the oldest person ever to receive a Nobel Prize in any category.
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Reprinted with permission from the author and Twin Cities Business magazine. Professor Hurwicz says that he is simply a product of his history. Leonid Hurwicz was born in Moscow on August 21, after the Kirensky revolution but before the October Bolshevik revolution. But I know we traveled in various imperfect ways, such as horse-drawn wagon, to arrive in Poland. His father was a lawyer, with a degree from the Sorbonne in Paris. In Warsaw a five-year internship was required to practice law, so he taught history while completing that. It was a time of pogroms throughout Europe.