Google celebrates Sir Arthur Lewis with a Doodle

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St Lucia’s Nobel Laureate, economist and professor Sir William Arthur Lewis is being celebrated by Google 41 years after he was awarded the Nobel Laureate Prize in economics.

Lewis was the first Black faculty member at the London School of Economics, the 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.

According to Google, the Doodle which was illustrated by Manchester-based guest artist Camilla Ru, was created to mark this day in 1979 when Lewis was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics for his pioneering work to model the economic forces that impact developing countries.

Artist Camilla Ru says she was inspired by Lewis’s contribution to the economies of so many countries hence why this Doodle was so meaningful to her.

“Arthur Lewis was an inspiring historical figure. I think his vast influence on the development of so many countries’ economies was most inspiring to me, especially his willingness to teach and share his knowledge for the betterment of others,” said Ru.

“I especially connected with his Caribbean roots and how he helped the economic growth of African countries. I loved the fact that I could incorporate the vibrant colors from both cultures into the Doodle, as well as play around with mathematical elements to highlight his work as an economist and professor” she continued.

Google’s write-up notes that Sir William Arthur Lewis was born on January 23, 1915, in Castries, St Lucia, which was a British colony at the time. 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. By 33, he was a full professor—one of the highest distinctions of a tenured professor.

In 1954, Lewis published his foundational article “Economic Development with Unlimited Supplies of Labour” which focused on world economic history and economic development.

Lewis wrote about this defining article for Nobel saying, “From my undergraduate days, I had sought a solution to the question of what determines the relative prices of steel and coffee. The approach through marginal utility made no sense to me. And the Heckscher-Ohlin framework could not be used, since that assumes that trading partners have the same production functions, whereas coffee cannot be grown in most of the steel producing countries.

Another problem that troubled me was historical. Apparently, during the first fifty years of the industrial revolution, real wages in Britain remained more or less constant while profits and savings soared. This could not be squared with the neoclassical framework, in which a rise in investment should raise wages and depress the rate of return on capital.

One day in August, 1952, walking down the road in Bangkok, it came to me suddenly that both problems have the same solution. Throw away the neoclassical assumption that the quantity of labour is fixed. An “unlimited supply of labour” will keep wages down, producing cheap coffee in the first case and high profits in the second case. The result is a dual (national or world) economy, where one part is a reservoir of cheap labour for the other. The unlimited supply of labour derives ultimately from population pressure, so it is a phase in the demographic cycle.

The publication of my article on this subject in 1954 was greeted equally with applause and with cries of outrage. In the succeeding 25 years, other scholars have written five books and numerous articles arguing the merits of the thesis, assessing contradictory data, or applying it to solving other problems. The debate continues.”

Among many achievements, 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.

Sir Arthur Lewis was knighted by the British government in 1963 in honor of his lifelong achievements. He died in 1991.

Camilla Ru hopes the artwork and Sir Arthur Lewis’s story help people understand the importance of sharing knowledge and how this can inspire others and aid in their growth.

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