Saturday, August 25, 2007

Ladislaus Bortkiewicz

Ladislaus Bortkiewicz
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Ladislaus Josephovich Bortkiewicz (August 7, 1868 - July 15, 1931) was a Russian economist and statistician of Polish descent.

Bortkiewicz was born in St. 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[1]. 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 cavalry 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 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.

[edit] Major publications

* "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, spanish version 1917
* "Value and Price in the Marxian System", 1952, IEP.

[edit] Internal link

1. ^ See also: "Das Gesetz der kleinen Zahlen" in Monatshefte für Mathematik vol. 9 p. A39 1898. DOI link

[edit] External links

* Biographical sketch on the web site of the University of St. Andrews (in Scotland)
* New School: Ladislaus von Bortkiewicz

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Categories: 1868 births | 1931 deaths | Economists | Russian economists | Statisticians | People from Saint Petersburg | Russian mathematicians

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