© The Nobel Foundation
Leonid Hurwicz

American Jewish Recipients of the Nobel Prize

Leonid Hurwicz: Noble Prize
in Economics Recipient-2007

by Seymour “Sy” Brody

Leonid Hurwicz is an American Jewish recipient of the Noble Prize in economics, 2007, which he shared with Eric S. Maskin and Roger B. Meyerson for having laid the foundation of mechanism theory.

Hurwicz is the oldest person to receive the Noble Prize. His age prevented him from going to Sweden to attend the award ceremonies. The University of Minnesota had a special award ceremony with Robert Buininks, president, presiding, his family and friends attending and the Swedish Ambassador, Jonas Hafstrom, presenting the Nobel Prize for the Noble Foundation.

He was born on August 21, 1917, in Moscow, Russia. His parents were Polish and after he was born, they moved to Warsaw, Poland. He and his family experienced anti-Semitism and persecution from the Bolsheviks and the Nazis after they invaded Poland. His parents and brother were arrested and sent to Soviet labor camps. Hurwicz managed to get to Switzerland and Portugal. In 1940, he emigrated to the United States. His family finally joined him.

Hurwicz was encouraged by his father and in 1938, he received an L.L.M. From Warsaw University. It was here that he became interested in economics. He never received a degree in economics. He was quoted as saying, “Whatever economics I learned, I learned by listening and learning.”

Hurwicz was on the faculty of the University of Chicago and he hired Evelyn Jensen, an undergraduate student, as a teaching assistant in 1940. They were married in 1944 and they had four children.

Hurwicz was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, 1945-46. He became an associate professor of economics in Iowa State College, in 1946. He became a full time research associate for the Cowles Commission in 1950.

Leonid Hurwicz received many awards and honors:
● Elected a fellow of the Econometric Society, 1947 and 1969
● Inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1965
● Inducted into the Academy of Sciences, 1977
● A Distinguished Fellow of American Economic Association, 1977
● Received the National Medal of Science, 1990
● Received an honorary doctorate from Northwestern University, 1980
● Received an honorary doctorate from the University of Chicago, 1993
● Received an honorary doctorate from Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, 1989
● Received an honorary doctorate from Keio University, 1993
● Received an honorary doctorate from Warsaw School of Economics, 1994
● Received an honorary doctorate from Universitat Bielefeld, 2004

Hurwicz served on the United Nations Economic Commission, 1948 and the United States Research Council, in 1954. He was a member of the National Science Foundation Commission on Weather Modification, 1964.

The Minnesota Economic Association started the Leonid Hurwicz Distinguished Lecture, in 1992.

Leonid Hurwicz died on June 24, 2008, in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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