Leonid Hurwicz

National Medal of Science

Behavioral And Social Science

For his pioneering work on the theory of modern decentralized allocation mechanisms.

For his pioneering work on the theory of modern decentralized allocation mechanisms.

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Birth
August 21, 1917
Age Awarded
73
Country of Birth
Russia
Key Contributions
Mechanism Design Theory
Pioneered Application Of Game Theory
Awarded by
George H. W. Bush
Education
University of Warsaw
Areas of Impact
Human Behavior
Affiliations
University of Minnesota
Other Prizes
Nobel Prize
L

Leonid Hurwicz’s Nobel Prize-winning economic theory, mechanism design, relies on the probability that human beings cheat within an otherwise law-abiding economic model. His insight is perhaps unsurprising — coming of age as Hitler began his rampage through Europe, Hurwicz early on was exposed to the darker side of humanity.

Graduating from Warsaw University with a law degree in 1938, Hurwicz left Poland just before Hitler invaded, shipping his parents and brother off to the labor camps. Hurwicz bounced all over Europe, eventually finding his way to cousins in America. His family later joined him in the U.S.

Hurwicz’s mathematical equation for mechanism design allowed for the development of innovative solutions to problems that accounted for all parties’ self interests, and that were more realistic than situations projected by other economic models. But Hurwicz never lost his faith in the good of mankind, including in his theories how “intervenors,” or ethical people, can tip the economic scales back in the favor of justice. 

By Lauren Clason

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