Leonid Hurwicz papers, 1917-2008, bulk dates 1951-1999

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Hurwicz, Leonid
Leonid Hurwicz (1917-2008) was a Nobel Price winnter and Regents' Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Minnesota. This collection primarily documents his professional life through his correspondence, writings, research, and professional and faculty activities. It forms part of the Economists' Papers Archive.
115 Linear Feet (252 document boxes and two half document boxes.)
7.6 Gigabytes (One set.)
Materials are primarily in English; some material also in Polish, Russian, German, and French.
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

The materials in this collection are from Hurwicz's office at the University of Minnesota and his home.

The primary subjects are econometrics, the stability of general equilibrium, the integrability of demand functions, decision-making under uncertainty, welfare economics, game theory and incentive theory, and the development of mechanism design. Hurwicz contributed many papers in these fields, and there are also files that show his interest in the transition toward market economies in China, Russia, and Eastern European countries during the 1980s-1990s.

The most common types of material are manuscript files for writings, research files, and correspondence files. There is a small set of annotated books, plus 18 floppy discs, one CD, two DVDs, and one email account, the contents of which have all been transferred to a server and are available. The CD contains three backups of Hurwicz's computer with correspondence, writings, research, and teaching material.

The bulk of the collection is in the Writings series and the Research and Notes series, which contain many collaborations and exchanges with other economists, most prominently Kenneth Arrow, Thomas Marschak, Roy Radner, Stanley Reiter, Marcel Richter, Donald Saari, and Hirofumi Uzawa. Hurwicz knew and corresponded with many other economists, mainly those working in the fields of mathematical economics, welfare economics, and institutional economics. He annotated many of the working papers that were sent to him throughout his life by other economists, such as Theodore Bergstrom, Jerry Green, Philip Hartman, Eric Maskin, William Thompson, and Jan Werner.

In addition to Hurwicz's writings and research, the collection also follows his professional activities as a teacher and faculty member at the University of Minnesota in the Economics Department. There is correspondence with colleagues such as John Chipman and Vernon Ruttan and with former students such as Tatsuyoshi Saijo, as well as meeting minutes and committee material. A number of files concern his work with outside groups such as the Cowles Commission, the RAND Corporation, the National Science Foundation, the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Finally, some files document his presentations at seminars, workshops, and conferences, as well as his other travels to invited lectures, award ceremonies, and other presentations.

Biographical / historical:

Leonid Hurwicz (1917-2008) was a white Polish-American academic economist who was born on 21 August 1917 in Moscow to Abraham and Zofia Hurwicz (born Zofia Salamon), Polish refugees who had fled the German occupation of Poland during World War One. His family moved back to Warsaw in 1919, where he lived until he graduated from the University of Warsaw in 1938 with a law degree. He began studying at the London School of Economics later that year and attended F. A. Hayek's lectures, among others. Hurwicz was forced to go back to the continent following difficulties renewing his visa, and he spent the academic year 1939-1940 in Geneva, where he attended the seminar of Ludwig von Mises at the Graduate Institute of International Studies.

Hurwicz was able to come to the United States in 1940, and settled in Chicago. He attended classes at the University of Chicago, including those of Oskar Lange, a fellow Polish immigrant. Lange helped Hurwicz find a short-term position as an assistant to Paul Samuelson at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology during the Spring of 1941, and Hurwicz took this opportunity to attend classes taught by Edward Chamberlin, Gottfried Haberler, and Joseph Schumpeter at Harvard University.

Hurwicz then went back to Chicago and participated in the war effort as a research associate in meteorology at the University of Chicago, before he became a research associate at the Cowles Commission for Research in Economics. There, he worked on business cycles and the emerging Cowles style of econometrics, in close relation with Tjalling Koopmans, Theodore Anderson, and others. In Chicago, Hurwicz also met Evelyn Jensen, who became his wife in 1944; they had four children: Sarah, Michael, Ruth, and Maxim.

Hurwicz was an associate professor at Iowa State College (now Iowa State University) from 1946 to 1949, then a professor of economics and mathematical statistics at the University of Illinois from 1949 to 1951. He was next recruited by the University of Minnesota in 1951, where he stayed for the rest of his career, becoming Regents' Professor of Economics in 1969 before retiring and becoming professor emeritus in 1988. In addition, he held several visiting positions at other institutions, including the Cowles Commission (1949-1950), Stanford University (1955-1956; 1958-1959), Harvard University (1969-1971), and Northwestern University (1988-1989). He also consulted for a number of research organizations, such as the RAND Corporation and the National Science Foundation, and served on the editorial and advisory boards of several professional journals.

Hurwicz's awards and honors include six honorary degrees, and he was an elected member of several scientific organizations, including the Econometric Society (1947; President, 1969), the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1965), and the National Academy of Sciences (1974). He was an active member of many other professional organizations, and was elected a Distinguished Fellow of the American Economic Association in 1977. He received the National Medal of Science in 1990 and shared the 2007 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences with Eric Maskin and Roger Myerson.

Hurwicz moved on from econometrics to the theory of resource allocation and general equilibrium theory in the 1950s. He contributed several articles with Kenneth Arrow and Hirofumi Uzawa on the stability of general equilibrium and developed his own theories of decentralized resource allocation and informational efficiency. He pursued this research in the 1960s, with an interest in the comparative analysis of centralized and decentralized systems. This work was connected to his research on public goods, demand functions (in particular with Marcel Richter), and welfare economics, and led him to develop the concept of incentive-compatibility in the early 1970s. This research led to the construction and development of the field of mechanism design, bringing together his interests in information, general equilibrium, organization theory, incentives, and decentralization mechanisms. Hurwicz's work during the 1970s contributed to the diffusion of game theory in economics, and he participated in the construction of the New Institutional Economics in the 1980s. His long-term collaborations with Roy Radner, Stanley Reiter, Marcel Richter, Donald Saari, and other economists and mathematicians structured Hurwicz's publications from the 1960s to the 2006 publication of his book Designing Economic Mechanisms, coauthored with Reiter.

Hurwicz died in Minneapolis on 26 June 2008.

Acquisition information:
The Leonid Hurwicz papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library as gifts from Leonid Hurwicz, Maxim Hurwicz, Wendy Williamson, and Shomu Banerjee in 2008-2010, 2017, and 2023.
Processing information:

Processed by Yann Giraud, Ted Holt, Paula Jeannet Mangiafico, Kathryn Terrell, and Michael Thomas, August 2009; Meghan Lyon, 2010; Laurin Penland, 2017; Vincent Carret, January 2023.

Encoded by Ted Holt, Paula Jeannet, and Kathryn Terrell, September 2009.

Description of Other Research and Writings subseries extended and updated by Paula Jeannet Mangiafico, February 2014.

Correspondence and Research and Writings series reprocessed by Vincent Carret, December 2022.

Electronic records processed by Zachary Tumlin, December 2022.

Accessions described in this collection guide: 2008-0003, 2008-0063, 2008-0087, 2008-0248, 2008-0291, 2009-0075, 2010-0052, 2017-0054, and 2023-0015.


The Leonid Hurwicz papers are arranged into six series: Correspondence, Personal, Writings, Research and Notes, Professional Service, and Teaching.

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Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], Leonid Hurwicz papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Duke University.