© The Nobel Foundation
Wassily W. Leontief

American Jewish Recipients of the Nobel Prize

Wassily W. Leontief: Nobel Prize
in Economics Recipient-1973

by Seymour “Sy” Brody

Wassily Wassilyovitch Leontief was an American Jewish recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics, in 1973, for the development of the input-output method and for its application to important economic problems.

He was born on August 5, 1905, in Munich, Germany. He spent his early life in St. Petersburg (Leningrad), Tzarist Russia. His father, Wassily W. Leontief, Sr. was a professor of Economics and he came from a dynasty of merchants living in St. Petersburg since 1741. His mother, Genya Becker, came from a wealthy Jewish family in Odessa.

Leontief enrolled in the University of Leningrad and earned his Master degree as a Learned Economist, in 1924. He continued his studies at the University of Berlin where he received his Ph.D. degree in Economics, in 1929. He wrote his dissertation on, “Circular Flows in Economics.”

In 1931, he came to the United States to work in New York City for the National Bureau of Economic Research and to the Department of Economics at Harvard University. He became a professor of Economics in 1946 and in 1948 he organized the Harvard Research Project and was the director until 1973.

Leontief was married to Estelle Marks, a poetess, and they had a daughter, Svetlana Alpers, who became a professor of the History of Arts at the University of California, Berkeley.

He received many awards:
● Order of the Cherubim, 1953
● Dr honoris causa, University of Brussels, 1962
● Dr of the University, University of York, 1967
● Officer of the French Legion d’Honneur, 1968
● Bernard-Harms Prize Economics, West Germany, 1970
● Dr honoris causa, University of Louvain, 1971
● Dr honoris causa, University of Paris (Sorbonne), 1972
● Pulitzer Prize in Economics, 1973
● Dr honoris causa, University of Pennsylvania, 1976
● Dr honoris causa, University of Toulouse, France, 1980
● Dr honoris causa, University of Louisville, Kentucky, 1980
● Doctor of Social Sciences, University of Vermont, 1980
● Doctor of Laws, C.W. Post Center, Long Island, New York, 1980
● Russian-American Hall of Fame, 1980
● Karl Marx University, Budapest, Hungary, 1981
● Order of the Rising Sun, Japan, 1984
● Dr honoris causa, Adelphi College, 1988
● Foreign member, USSR Academy of Sciences, 1988
● Society Optimate, Italian Cultural Institute, New York, 1989
● Dr honoris, University of Cordoba, Spain, 1990
● Takemi Memorial Award, Institute of Seizon & Life Sciences, Japan, 1991
● Harry Edmonds Award for Life Achievement, International House, 1995
● Dr honoris causa, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany, 1995

Wassily Wassilyovitch Leontief died at age 93, on February 5, 1999, in New York City, New York.

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