Amartya Sen was born in Santiniketan, West Bengal (India) in 1933. He initially achieved a B.A. at the University of Calcuttas Presidency College before moving to Cambridge University in England. He graduated with a B.A. from Trinity College in 1955 and completed his Doctorate in 1959. Exceptionally talented, he also became a Professor of the Department of Economics at Jadavpur University, Calcutta, during a break in his studies. Once he had his Ph.D. in economics, Sen used his Prize Fellowship at Trinity in order to study philosophy.
From a young age, Sen had witnessed the effect of poverty on individuals and was deeply affected when he met famine victims similar in age to himself. He was determined that economics could be used to make a difference to ordinary people and throughout his career he has proved this to be the case. His work has become highly influential and as a leading professor, he has helped inspire new generations of economists to consider the ethics of policy at all levels.
One of Sen's major contributions was to help create the Human Development Index (HDI). The aim of the HDI is to assess the standard of living of people in countries across the world based on their education, income and life expectancy and it is used by the United Nations. The system it replaced based standards of living on a countrys Gross National Product (GNP), and Sen and other leading economists were determined that it should be changed. It is a clear indicator of his reputation and ability that the HDI has become the most respected source of such information globally.
During the course of his career, Sen has utilised economics and philosophy in order to promote a realistic and ethical approach to evaluating and altering policies for the better. Often described as softly spoken, Sen does not feel the need to drill his theories and findings into others sound economics will speak for itself if explained correctly. It is for this reason that Sen has become such a popular speaker; in addition to general speaking work, he has delivered the 2010 Demos Annual Lecture and the 351st commencement speech at Harvard in the year 2000.
"Sen is one of the great thinkers of our era ... if a public intellectual is defined by his or her capacity to bridge the worlds of pure ideas and the most far-reaching policies, Sen has few rivals" - David Aaronovitch, The Times
"He has spent a lifetime fighting poverty with analysis rather than activism. Known in his native India as the Mother Teresa of economics, his ideas have had a global impact." - Jonathan Steele, The Guardian
"He has a mind like a searchlight, yet he works at Mozartian speed. His output is staggering in its volume" - Robert Cassen, London School of Economics