Ladislaus Bortkiewicz

Ladislaus Bortkiewicz

Infobox_Scientist
name = Ladislaus Bortkiewicz


caption =
birth_date = Birth date|1868|8|7
birth_place = Saint Petersburg, Imperial Russia
death_date = death date and age|1931|7|15|1868|8|7
death_place = Berlin, Germany
residence =
nationality =
field = Economist, Statistician
work_institution = University of Berlin 1901–31 Professor Alexandrowskii Lyceum 1899–00 Russian Railways 1897–01 University of Strasbourg, 1895–1897 Privatdozent
alma_mater =University of Strasbourg, Habilitation 1895 University of Göttingen, Ph.D. 1893
University of Saint Petersburg 1890
doctoral_advisor = Georg Friedrich Knapp (Habil.) Wilhelm Lexis (Ph.D.)
doctoral_students = Wassily Leontief
known_for = Poisson distribution Transformation problem
prizes =
religion =
footnotes =

Ladislaus Josephovich Bortkiewicz (ru:"Владислав Иосифович Борткевич", pl:"Władysław Bortkiewicz", August 7, 1868 – July 15, 1931) was a Russian economist and statistician of Polish descent, who lived most of his professional life in Germany. He was of minor nobility: for his earlier publication he used the German styled "von" as "Ladislaus von Bortkewitsch", for his later publications he changed it slightly to "Ladislaus von Bortkiewicz".

Bortkiewicz was born in Saint Petersburg, Imperial Russia (today Russia) where he graduated in law in 1890.

In 1898 he published a book about the Poisson distribution, titled "The Law of Small Numbers" [See also: "Das Gesetz der kleinen Zahlen" in "Monatshefte für Mathematik" vol. 9 p. A39 1898. [http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/BF01707919 DOI link] ] . In this book he first noted that events with low frequency in a large population follow a Poisson distribution even when the probabilities of the events varied. It was that book that made the Prussian horse-kick data famous. The data give the number of soldiers killed by being kicked by a horse each year in each of 14 cavalry corps over a 20-year period. Bortkiewicz showed that those numbers follow a Poisson distribution. The book also examined data on child-suicides. Some historians of mathematics [p.e. I J Good, Some statistical applications of Poisson's work, Statist. Sci. 1 (2) (1986), 157–180. [http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0883-4237%28198605%291%3A2%3C157%3ASSAOPW%3E2.0.CO%3B2-I JSTOR link] ] have even argued that the Poisson distribution should have been named the "Bortkiewicz distribution."

Bortkiewicz attempted to predict how many pieces of artillery would overheat in an intensive battle. He failed in this because of his limited knowledge of thermodynamics and metallic composition of cannons.

In political economy, Bortkiewicz is important for his analysis of Karl Marx's reproduction schema in the last two volumes of "Capital". Bortkiewicz identified a transformation problem in Marx's work which, if proven, would profoundly undermine Marx's claim to have provided a consistent account of capitalist economics. This work provided the basis of major elaborations by Joseph Schumpeter and Paul Sweezy among others.

Bortkiewicz died in Berlin, Germany.

Major publications

*"Die mittlere Lebensdauer. Die Methoden ihrer Bestimmung und ihr Verhältnis zur Sterblichkeitsmessung". Gustav Fischer, Jena 1893 ( [http://resolver.sub.uni-goettingen.de/purl?PPN527403490 Göttinger Digitalisierungszentrum] )
*"Review of Léon Walras, "Éléments d'économie politique pure", 2e édit.", 1890, "Revue d'économie politique"
*"Das Gesetz der kleinen Zahlen", 1898
*"Wertrechnung und Preisrechnung im Marxschen System", 1907, "Archiv fur Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik".
*"On the Correction of Marx's Fundamental Theoretical Construction in the Third Volume of Capital."
*"Die Iterationen", [http://ar.geocities.com/alfonsoflorido/bortkiewicz_sobrelatransformacion.pdf spanish version 1917]
* [http://jphdupre.chez-alice.fr/livre/pdf/bortkiewicz.pdf Value and Price in the Marxian System, 1952, "IEP"] .

References

*Joseph Schumpeter": Ladislaus von Bortkiewicz, Economic Journal, Vol. 42 (1932), pp. 338–340, reprinted in: Ten great economists from Marx to Keynes (New York, 1960), pp. 302–305"
*Emil Julius Gumbel": Ladislaus von Bortkiewicz, International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences 2 (New York, 1968), pp. 128–131."
*Paul A. Samuelson". Resolving a Historical Confusion in Population Analysis. Human Biology, 48, 1976: S. 559–580.

Internal link

External links

* [http://www-gap.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/Mathematicians/Bortkiewicz.html Biographical sketch] on the web site of the University of St. Andrews (in Scotland)
* [http://cepa.newschool.edu/het/profiles/bortk.htm New School: Ladislaus von Bortkiewicz]


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