Sir W. Arthur Lewis Childhood and Early Life

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Sir W. Arthur Lewis. Photo: Caribean National Weekly

Sir Arthur Lewis was born in St. Lucia on January 23, 1915. He was the fourth son of George Ferdinand and Ida Lewis. His parents, who were both school teachers, had migrated to that island country from Antigua, about a little more than a decade back. His family, therefore, had some slight characteristics of immigrant minorities. Sir Arthur Lewis’s father died when he was seven years old leaving behind his wife and five sons. Arthur’s mother was very hardworking and highly disciplined and she raised all her sons to become successful in life.

Sir W. Arthur Lewis Education

Arthur Lewis’ progressed through public schools very rapidly. When he was seven he had to stay at home for several weeks because of an ailment. At this time his father chose to teach him so that he would not fall behind. It happened that, he taught Arthur in three months as much as the school would teach in two years. Therefore, he was shifted from grade 4 to grade 6 when he returned back to school. The rest of his school life and early working life up to the age of 18 were spent with students or workers two or three years older than him. This gave Arthur Lewis a sense of inferiority as well as an understanding that high marks are not everything.

After completing his primary schooling at the age of 14, Arthur went to work as a clerk in the civil service because he was too young to apply for a scholarship to attend a British university. His experiences at work during those times would serve him in good stead as he learned to be orderly. In 1932, when he was of the required age, he applied for the scholarship and won it.

He was still unsure as to what to do with his life as the British government imposed color bar on its colonies and young blacks could only choose from a few professions. Arthur Lewis did not want to become a doctor or a lawyer, two professions which were allowed for the blacks. He wanted to become an engineer but this seemed pointless as the government or plantations wouldn’t employ a black engineer. So eventually he decided to study business administration and went to the London School of Economics for a Bachelor of Commerce degree. After he graduated in 1937, with a first-class honors degree, LSE gave the scholarship to do a Ph.D. in Industrial Economics, which he completed in 1940, according to The Famous People.

Sir W. Arthur Lewis Career

He is well-known for his work on economic growth and development, international economic history and industrial organisation. The time with the Colonial Office allowed him to attain first-hand knowledge of the inner workings of the colonial government and spurred his thinking and writing about developing economies. In 1948, he was the Stanley Jevons Professor of Political Economy and the Cobden Lecturer 1948 at Manchester University. Under Lewis’s leadership, the university emerged as the leading place to study development economics in Britain.

At the end of 1952, Kwame Nkrumah of the Gold Coast in Africa, asked Lewis to advise the government on industrialization. In 1953 his report on industrialization and the Gold Coast was published. In 1959, he returned to the Caribbean to become the first West Indian Principal of the University College of the West Indies (The University of the West Indies (UWI)). He was UWI’s first West Indian Vice-Chancellor (1962-3) and later became visiting Professor of Economics, teaching courses in development planning. He worked tirelessly to promote the federation of the British West Indies and during this time, authored the “Agony of the Eight” a response to the collapse of the federation.

In 1963, Lewis accepted a professorship at Princeton University in the USA. He was the first black professor to be appointed at an Ivy League College. He remained with Princeton until 1983.
In 1979, Sir William Arthur Lewis was jointly awarded with Theodore Schultz, the Nobel Prize for his outstanding contribution to economics, making him the first person of African origin to receive a Nobel Prize in a field other than peace. Former Director of the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute, Professor Andrew Downes, addressed his contribution in the paper, ‘The Lewis Model after 50 years: Assessing Sir Arthur Lewis’ Contribution to Development Economics and Policy’, presented at the University of Manchester, in July, 2004. His theory of economic development and unlimited supplies of labour remains an important and pioneering study. In 1971, he took leave from Princeton University and returned to the Caribbean where he became President of the newly established Caribbean Development Bank, headquartered in Barbados, as cited by

Google is celebrating Sir W. Arthur Lewis with a Doodle.

Who is Sir W. Arthur Lewis   One of the Pioneers in Modern Development Economics ?
Photo: Google

Esteemed economist and professor Sir W Arthur Lewis is being celebrated by Google with a Doodle on the search engine’s homepage. The illustration, which shows the professor in front of a school blackboard with “Google” written in chalk behind him, honours Lewis 41 years after he was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in economics.

St. Lucian economist, professor, and author Sir W. Arthur Lewis was considered one of the pioneers in the field of modern development economics. A trailblazer not only in his research, he was also the first Black faculty member at the London School of Economics, first Black person to hold a chair in a British university (at Manchester University), and the first Black instructor to receive full professorship at Princeton University. On this day in 1979, Lewis was jointly awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics for his pioneering work to model the economic forces that impact developing countries, according to Google.

Lewis retired from his incredible economics career in 1983. He died when he was 76 years old, on 15 June 1991, and was buried at Sir Arthur Lewis Community College in St Lucia - a university named after him.

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