Alexander Lerner was born to a Jewish family in Vinnytsia, Russian Empire (now Ukraine). Lerner graduated with a degree in electrical engineering from the Moscow Power Engineering Institute in 1938, and received a Ph.D. from the same institution in 1940. During the World War II, Lerner served as the chief engineer of the Central Autonomous Laboratory at the Soviet Ministry of Ferrous Metallurgy in Moscow.
Lerner became a member of the Soviet scientific and technological elite. He was a leading practitioner of cybernetics. It is a branch of science that deals with human control systems like the brain and nervous systems where they interconnect with complex electronic systems. Also, his mathematical equations were used in forecasting supply and demand for vital materials like steel, or allocating scarce resources.
Lerner was the first prominent Soviet scientist to seek to emigrate to Israel. His request was denied, and resulted in the sudden loss of his positions and privileges. In 1977, a letter was published in the Soviet newspaper Izvestiya calling Lerner "the leader of an espionage nest." His closest associates in the refusenik movement — Natan Sharansky, Vladimir Slepak and Ida Nudel — were arrested. He was finally granted an exit permit and emigrated to Israel on Jan. 27, 1988, together with his son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter.
Lerner accepted an appointment in the mathematics department at the Weizmann Institute of Science where he pursued a number of projects, including the development of an artificial heart and the construction of a mathematical model to predict the behavior of developed societies.
- Yakov Alpert (2000). Making waves: stories from my life. New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press. p. 162. ISBN 0-300-07821-8.
- SAXON, WOLFGANG (2004-07-06). "Alexander Lerner, Cybernetics Expert, Is Dead at 90". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-06-18.