Leonid Kantorovich: Nobel Laureate and Pioneer in Linear Programming and Economic Planning

OV Digital Desk

Leonid Kantorovich (19 January 1912 – 7 April 1986) was a Russian mathematician and economist. In 1975, he received the Nobel Prize in Economy.

Life and Career

He was born on 19 January 1912 in Saint Petersburg, Russian Empire. He joined the Department of Mathematics at Leningrad State University in 1926.  In 1930, he graduated from Leningrad University. Then, he continued his studies in mathematics at Leningrad State University’s Faculty of Physics and Mathematics.

He became a professor in 1934 and served Until 1960. From 1961 to 1971, he headed the mathematics and economics department at the Siberian branch of the U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences and then was head of the research laboratory at Moscow’s Institute of National Economic Planning from 1971 to 1976. In 1933, he presented the first book that he co-authored with Vladimir Ivanovich Krylov. It was titled ‘Calculus of variations’.

In 1934, he gave two lectures on conformal mappings of domains and approximate solutions to partial differential equations at the Second All-Union Mathematical Congress in Leningrad. He defined semi-ordered linear spaces that were later to be called Kantorovich spaces or K spaces. In 1936, he published ‘On one class of functional equations’. He assigned numerical methods to semi-ordered spaces in the book.

Leonid Kantorovich died on 7 April 1986 in Moscow, RSFSR, Soviet Union.


He made his first major contribution to economics in 1938 as a consultant for the Soviet government’s plywood trust. Kantorovich realized that maximizing raw material distribution could be solved mathematically. He developed a linear technique now called “linear programming.”

He came up with the Kantorovich theorem in 1940, which showed how Newton’s Method could find successively better approximations of the roots (or zeros) of real-valued functions. He was a professor at Military Engineering-Technical University during the siege of Leningrad in 1941 and was in charge of safety on the ice road across frozen Lake Ladoga. During this time period, he calculated the ideal distance between vehicles on ice based on the thickness and temperature of the ice.

He also introduced many other math concepts, such as complex variable theory, approximation theory, function theory, descriptive set theory, Bernstein polynomials, etc. Functional and numerical analysis.

Award and Legacy

He won the Lenin Prize in 1965, and the Order of Lenin in 1967. In 1975, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics.