Karel Kouba belongs among the most prominent Czech economists of the second half of the 20th century. The paper analyzes his major contribution to the Czech economic thought in the context of economic reforms of the Prague Spring of 1968 and of economic transition in 1990s. In the communist era special focus is devoted to the theory of growth in the socialist economies, compatibility of plan and market and his inclusion of individual motivations into decision-making of agents within the centrally planned economy. After the Velvet Revolution in 1989, K. Kouba showed the importance of microeconomic relations for the macrostability and the relevance of institutional economy for explaining the processes during the transition period. Kouba's story has also a more general message. It shows how the biggest talents were treated during the communist era in Czechoslovakia and which dilemmas they had to face.