Celebrating Sir W. Arthur Lewis

Celebrating Sir W. Arthur Lewis

Photo: The Doodle was illustrated by Manchester-based guest artist Camilla Ru who admired Lewis as a historical figure for his vast influence on the development of so many countries’ economies and especially his willingness to teach and share his knowledge for the betterment of others.

Today’s Doodle, illustrated by Manchester-based guest artist Camilla Ru, celebrates St. Lucian economist, professor, and author Sir W. Arthur Lewis, 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.

William Arthur Lewis was born on January 23, 1915, in Castries on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, at the time a British colony. Despite facing challenges with racial discrimination, in 1932 he won a government scholarship and set out to study at the London School of Economics, where he eventually earned a doctorate in industrial economics. Lewis quickly ascended the ranks of academia and by 33 was a full professor—one of the highest distinctions of a tenured professor. 

Lewis shifted his focus to world economic history and economic development and in 1954 published his foundational article “Economic Development with Unlimited Supplies of Labour.” Among many valuable accomplishments, Lewis contributed influential work to the United Nations and shared his expertise as an adviser to governments in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean. He also helped establish and served as the first president of the Caribbean Development Bank. 

In honor of his lifelong achievements, the British government knighted Lewis in 1963.

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