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Sir William Arthur Lewis
1915 - 1991

 

 


Sir Arthur Lewis Community
College 
in Castries, Saint Lucia.

 

Deadline for submission of entries for the Sir Arthur Lewis Memorial Essay Competition is Tuesday, February 20, 2007.

Born in Saint Lucia on January 23rd, 1915 to George and Ida Lewis.  He was the fourth of five children.  

Arthur attended the Anglican School ; from there he won a scholarship to the Saint Mary’s College at the age of ten.  Two years later, he passed the Cambridge Junior Examinations. The next year he passed the Cambridge School Certificate. At fourteen   he had finished his Secondary education gaining   honours in both examinations.  

Unable to sit the examinations for the Saint Lucia Scholarship and the  London Matriculation, because of his age, Arthur entered the Civil Service, where he occupied himself with learning valuable skills of writing, typing, filing and of  being orderly.

On winning the Island Scholarship, he opted to study Economics in preference to Engineering, Medicine or Law. He believed this would be his way of entering the Municipal service or the private trade. He entered the London School of Economics to study for the Bachelor of Commerce.  

Arthur graduated in 1937 with first class honours, setting a record of finishing first in his class and obtaining first class marks in seven of eight subjects. He was awarded a Scholarship for a Ph.D. degree in Industrial Economics. This he completed in 1940.In addition, he was given a one-year teaching appointment that was later changed to a four year contract.  

In 1948 Arthur joined the University of Manchester , after having married the former Gladys Jacobs of Grenada the year before. The couple later had two daughters, Elizabeth and Barbara.  

Ten years as the Stanley Jevons Professor of Political Economy at the University of Manchester saw Dr. Lewis distinguish himself in academic scholarship and professional achievement.  He earned himself the Title “Consultant Physician to the Ailing Economies.” He served as a Con-sultant to a Number of Organizations including the Caribbean Commission.  

He was member of the following: Colonial Advisory Economic Council, (1951-1953); Committee for National Fuel Policy, Britain; United Nations Group of Experts; Board of Governors of Queen Elizabeth House, Oxford; He also served as Consultant to a number of Governments, these include Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Nigeria, Barbados and Ghana.  He was also Managing Director of the United Nations Special Fund in 1950.  

In 1959, Arthur Lewis accepted the post of Head of the Department of Economics at the University of the West Indies (U.W.I.). He also became the first West Indian born to head the University, serving as Principal and then as Vice Chancellor.  

As head of the University, he was responsible for expanding the University to a full-fledged independent institution with enrollment increasing from 690 to over 2000. He also established the School of Engineering at the University, working hard he was able to obtain funding for it from the Ford Foundation and the United Nations. He served the University until 1963, the year when he was knighted by Her Majesty the Queen. From 1966-1973 he served as Chancellor of the University of Guyana .  

In 1963 Sir Arthur, took up appointment at the Distinguished Princeton University , first as Professor of Public and International Affairs and then the prestigious position as James Madison Professor of Political Economy.

In 1971 Sir Arthur returned to the Caribbean to set up the Caribbean Development Bank, he also served as its first President until 1973, when he returned to Princeton .

Sir Arthur Lewis made history for Saint Lucia and the Caribbean when he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1979. He received the prize after 25 years of contribution to the field of Economics. It was awarded for his research into the economic problems of Developing Countries.  

Sir Arthur in his academic career wrote many books, monographs, official papers, articles, and chapters in various books.  His most significant publications are:- Economic Survey(1918-1939), [1949], Principle of Economic Planning [1949], Theory of Economic Growth, [1955]; Development Planning, [1966]. The Agony of the Eight [1965].

He received numerous awards which include, Honorary Fellow of the London School of Economics and of the Weizman Institute. He also obtained a number of Honorary Degrees from The University of the West Indies, Boston College, Columbia University, Lagos University, Manchester University, Toronto University to name a few.

Sir Arthur’s main interests were in the Theory of Growth, Cyclical Growth of the World Economy, Economic Development and Planning, and especially Economic Development of the Commonwealth Carib -bean. His was the Economic Model of Industrialization by Invitation, a model adopted by countries like Jamaica , Malta , Singapore , Hong Kong and Maurititius. In 1985 Arthur returned home to a grand homecoming celebration during which the Morne Educational Complex was renamed the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College by an act of Parliament.  

The distinguished Son of the soil returned on his retirement to Barbados where he died on June 15, 1991. Sir Arthur’s body was flown to Saint Lucia where he was buried on the grounds of the College named for him.

 


Condensed version 

In November 1979, Sir William Arthur Lewis became the first West Indian to win a Nobel Prize and the first black to be awarded an academic prize.  This was indeed a great honor not only to St. Lucians but to the entire Caribbean.  

From a child, Sir Arthur's mental capabilities were way beyond his years, having graduated from St. Mary's College at the age of thirteen.  Though Engineering was his first love, he was unable to pursue it because of racial discrimination. He entered instead the field of Economics which enabled him to excel to international heights.  

Sir Arthur was at the forefront of the establishment of the University of the West Indies and served as both Vice Chancellor and president.

He was author of several books, the more well-known being "The Theory of Economic Growth" and "The Agony of the Eight".  He also served the region as the first President of the Caribbean Development Bank, from 1970 to 1973.

Though Sir Arthur Lewis departed this life in June 1991, his genius can still be recognized when one reads any of the articles or books that he has written.