23 January: Remembering William Arthur Lewis on Birth Anniversary

OV Digital Desk
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William Arthur Lewis

William Arthur Lewis (23 January 1915 – 15 June 1991) was an economist and the James Madison Professor of Political Economy at Princeton University.

Life and Career

He was born on 23 January 1915 in Castries, Saint Lucia, British Windward Islands. Lewis got a government scholarship to the London School of Economics. He graduated in 1937 and got his Ph.D. in economics there in 1940. His career spanned as a lecturer at the school from 1938 to 1947, and as an economist at the University of Manchester from 1947 to 1958.

He served as principal of the University College of the West Indies from 1959 to 1962, and as a professor at Princeton University from 1963 to 1983.

He was an adviser to many international commissions and several African, Asian, and Caribbean governments on economic development. He was Ghana’s first economic advisor when the country gained independence in 1957. In 1959–1963, he helped draw up its first Five-Year Development Plan.

He was also named Professor of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, the first black professor at the university.

He was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 1966. He was also the Chancellor of the University of Guyana from 1966 to 1973.

In 1970, Lewis helped to establish the Caribbean Development Bank and was elected as the first president of the Bank, a position he held until 1973.

He died on 15 June 1991 in Bridgetown, Saint Michael, Barbados.


He developed some of his most important theories about capital and wages in developing countries during this time. Throughout his career, he contributed a lot to development economics, which became increasingly important as former colonies gained independence.

There are several books he wrote, including The Principles of Economic Planning (1949), The Theory of Economic Growth (1955), Development Planning (1966), Tropical Development 1880–1913 (1971), and Growth and Fluctuations 1870–1913 (1978).


For his achievements and contributions to economics, he was knighted in 1963.

In 1979, He won the Nobel Prize for Economics along with Theodore Schultz, “for pioneering research into economic development with special attention to developing countries”.

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