Sir William Arthur Lewis (1915–1991), born on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, virtually founded the entire discipline of development economics.
Lewis finished school in St. Lucia at 14 but had to work in a government office for two years because he was too young to compete for a scholarship to attend a British university. In 1932, when he finally did enter the competition, he won, and set sail the following year to attend the London School of Economics.
Lewis graduated from the London School of Economics in 1937 with first class honors and continued on for a Ph.D. in industrial economics. Lewis received glowing recommendations from his mentors, but his application to join the faculty of the University of Liverpool was turned down on what appeared to be racial grounds. Instead, he was hired at the University of Manchester in 1948, becoming Britain’s first black university professor.
At Manchester University in 1954 Lewis wrote the work, “Economic Development with Unlimited Supplies of Labour” for which he received the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1979. He followed the article with a well received overview of development economics called “The Theory of Economic Growth.” In both articles, Lewis attached enormous importance to education and social development as agents of change.
Knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1963, Lewis took a post that year teaching at Princeton University in New Jersey. He remained there for the rest of his life, writing several more books about development and the world economy.