In Memoriam: Ron Findlay

UNU-WIDER was greatly saddened to receive the message about the passing in October 2021 of Ron Findlay, Professor of Economics at Columbia University, New York. Ron was a good friend of UNU-WIDER from the Institute’s earliest days, and contributed to many of our publications and conferences. He was a Board Member from 2001 to 2008 and gave the 13th WIDER Annual Lecture.

Ron’s association with UNU-WIDER began with one of the Institute’s very first conferences, held in memory of the eminent Latin American economist Carlos Diaz Alejandro. With many distinguished economists attending, that conference helped put UNU-WIDER on the global development map. It resulted in the publication, in 1989, of Debt, Stabilization and Development: Essays in Memory of Carlos Diaz Alejandro edited by Ron together with Guillermo A. Calvo, Pentti J.K. Kouri, and Jorge Braga de Macedo.

Subsequently, Ron attended numerous UNU-WIDER conferences and events. They included Mapping the Future of Development Economics in 2015 and Think WIDER – Think Development in 2018. Ron helped shape UNU-WIDER’s project on Asian Transformations —led by Professor Deepak Nayyar— and wrote a study of Asia’s economy from an historical perspective.

Ron’s contributions to UNU-WIDER research and events reflected his profound knowledge of the global economy, both contemporary and historical. His analytical work on trade and development was pathbreaking and he combined this with unique depth and a broad knowledge of global economic history.

He made many notable contributions to the theory of trade and development, and his 2007 book with Kevin H. O'Rourke Power and Plenty: Trade, War, and the World Economy in the Second Millennium is outstanding work, covering one thousand years of global economic history.

In conversation, he would range from insights into the economy of the Ottoman Empire or Mughal India, to reminiscences of attending classes given by John Nash and Karl Polanyi as a graduate student, to sparring with Joan Robinson over investment theory at Rangoon University in the 1960s.

A true scholar, Ron was always keen to ensure that his work had relevance to some of the most pressing economic problems of our time. We will all dearly miss Ron’s intellectual insight, but also his infectious laugh and warm collegiality.

Tony Addison
Kunal Sen
Finn Tarp