Handbook on the History of Economic Analysis Volume I
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Handbook on the History of Economic Analysis Volume I

Great Economists Since Petty and Boisguilbert

Edited by Gilbert Faccarello and Heinz D. Kurz

Volume I contains original biographical profiles of many of the most important and influential economists from the seventeenth century to the present day. These inform the reader about their lives, works and impact on the further development of the discipline. The emphasis is on their lasting contributions to our understanding of the complex system known as the economy. The entries also shed light on the means and ways in which the functioning of this system can be improved and its dysfunction reduced. Each Handbook can be read individually and acts as a self-contained volume in its own right. It can be purchased separately or as part of a three-volume set.
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Chapter 98: Wassily W. Leontief (1905–1999)

Olav Bjerkholt


Wassily W. Leontief was born on 5 August 1905 in Munich, where his father, also named Wassily W. Leontief, at the time was completing a doctorate in political economy. Leontief was born into a merchant family established in St Petersburg since before 1750 (Kaliadina and Pavlova 2006). Leontief ’s mother, born Zlata Bekker, was from Odessa and of Jewish extraction, renamed Evgeniia after conversion to the Orthodox faith in 1906. Wassily Leontief is best known as the originator of input–output analysis, which, although rooted in his interwar work, he introduced around 1950 as “a method of analysis that takes advantage of the relative stable pattern of the flow of goods and services . . . to bring a much more detailed statistical picture of the system into the range of manipulation by economic theory” (Leontief 1986: 4). In 1986 he defined it more briefly and generally as “a method of systematically quantifying the mutual interrelationships among the various sectors of a complex economic system” (Leontief 1986: 19). The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 1973 was awarded to Wassily Leontief “for the development of the input–output method and for its application to important economic problems”. The applications of Leontief ’s invention have been very many and increasingly diversified. Leontief was a very gifted theoretical and mathematical economist whose interests and contributions covered a wide range of topics. Before proceeding with his scholarly contributions we sketch his path through life. Wassily Leontief grew up in St Petersburg...

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