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Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies

Sir W. Arthur Lewis

Sir Arthur Lewis Portraiture
Portraiture of Sir W. Arthur Lewis (left) unveiled by the Most Honourable Professor Eudine Barriteau (centre), Principal of The UWI, Cave Hill and Sir Vaughan Lewis (right), nephew of Sir Arthur Lewis
William Arthur Lewis was born in St. Lucia on January 23, 1915 to George Ferdinand and Ida Lewis. Arthur fell ill at age seven and had to remain at home for three months. His father, concerned that he might fall behind, taught him at home. Soon after, his father died and his mother raised him along with his four brothers. 

On January 23, 2015, W. Arthur Lewis would have celebrated his 100th birthday. In recognition of this centenary several events took place in the region and abroad to recognise this great Caribbean man.

Please click on each link to view a poster:
  • In 1932 Sir Arthur Lewis won a scholarship to read for a Bachelor of Commerce degree at the London School of Economics. In 1937, he graduated with first class honours.  In 1940, he earned his PhD in Industrial Economics there.
  • 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 development 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.
  • 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 his later years, Sir Arthur returned to Barbados and lived close to the Cave Hill Campus where he enjoyed the simple pleasures of life.   He died there on June 15, 1991. He is buried in the land of his birth - St Lucia.
To view information on the Sir William Arthur Lewis 1941-1988 three-volume publication edited by Patrick Emmanuel click here »