Amartya Sen

Amartya Sen: Mother Teresa of Economics

  • Ayushi Singh
    Ayushi Singh

Amartya Sen is a famous Indian economist and philosopher who has worked for the welfare of society. He has made contributions in many fields like development economics, public health, economic and social justice, and measures of well-being of countries, among others. Currently, he is serving the position of professor of economics and philosophy at Harvard University. Sen’s work is recognized by various organizations and countries across the world. As a result, he was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1998 and Bharat Ratna in 1999 for his contribution to welfare economics. In addition, he was awarded the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade in 2020 for his pioneering scholarship addressing issues of global justice and combating social inequality in education and healthcare.

Early Life and Education

Amartya Sen was born in a Bengali family in Shantiniketan on 3rd November 1933. Sen always had an inclination towards academics. His father was a professor of chemistry at Dhaka University, Development Commissioner in Delhi, and then Chairman of the West Bengal Public Service Commission. In 1945, Amartya Sen moved to West Bengal along with his family.

Sen began going to school in 1940 and joined St Gregory’s School in Dhaka. However, he was at that school for only one year. After that, he joined Patha Bhavana in Shantiniketan to complete his early education. Patha Bhavana helped in the overall development of Amartya Sen as the school stressed the importance of cultural diversity. In addition, the school had many progressive features like a distaste for examination and competitive testing. After completing his schooling, Amartya Sen joined Presidency College in Calcutta to earn a bachelor’s degree in economics.

Amartya Sen was a bright student, and this quality was evident in his academic achievements. He secured first division in B.A. Economics at the University of Calcutta. During his academic years in the Presidency College, Sen was diagnosed with oral cancer and was given a 15% chance of living five years. But Sen survived cancer with the help of proper treatment and radiation therapy. After overcoming oral cancer, Amartya Sen moved to Trinity College, Cambridge, and earned a B.A. in Economics in first class. After completing his bachelors’ degree, he went on to pursue Ph.D. from Cambridge University.

As soon as Amartya Sen completed his Ph.D., he was offered the position of First Professor and First-Head of the Economics Department of Jadavpur University in Calcutta. He served in that position for two years and contributed to the growth of the university.

Career

Amartya Sen began his career as a research scholar and teacher at Jadavpur University in 1956. He was the first professor to handle the Department of Economics in the newly built university. He served the university for two years and then became a visiting professor at MIT in the United States. Sen also served various Indian universities and colleges like JNU, Indian Statistical Institute, Centre for Development Studies, and Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics. After serving for a few years at these institutions, Sen joined the London School of Economics in 1971. He was associated with various ivy league institutions during his career as a professor.

Associations with different organizations

Amartya Sen was associated with different organizations during his academic career. He served as the President of the Econometric Society in 1984. Also, he was associated with organizations like the International Economic Association, the Indian Economic Association, and the American Economic Association. Sen has contributed to the eradication of poverty and gender inequality through the use of economic theories. As a result, he was given the name “the Mother Teresa of Economics” and “the Conscience of the profession.”

Awards and Recognition

Amartya Sen received more than 90 honorary degrees from different colleges and universities around the globe. However, the prominent awards won by him are:

  • Adam Smith Prize in 1954
  • Bharat Ratna in 1999
  • Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1998
  • International Humanist Award in 2002
  • Bodley Medal in 2019

Amartya Sen is an example of hard work and dedication. He is an inspiration for anyone willing to make a remarkable contribution in the field of academics. Many authors have also written books on his life showcasing his work towards the development of the economy.

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