Amartya Sen, speaker

Amartya Sen

Winner of the Nobel Memorial prize for his contribution to Welfare Economics.

One of the most influential economists and philosophers of our time, Amartya Sen won the Nobel Memorial Prize for his contributions to welfare economics in 1998.
Amartya Sen combines the two areas in his work with the aim of helping individuals and societies across the world. His contribution to social choice theory, economic measurement, development economics and welfare economics have proved extremely influential, making it little wonder that he was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1998. Having worked as a professor at some of world's most prestigious universities and written a number of successful books, Sen has helped to instill a foundation of philosophy into economics.

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About Amartya Sen

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.

Awards, accolades, achievements, honours

  • Legion d'Honneur - France (2012)
  • Aztec Eagle - Mexico (2012)
  • Thomas C. Schelling Award Harvard University (2012)
  • The National Humanities Medal USA (2012)
  • Shigemitsu Award - Shigemitsu Global Cultural Center (Japan) (2012)
  • Meister Eckhart Prize - Identity Foundation (Germany) (2007)
  • Lifetime Achievement Award - Indian Chamber of Commerce (2003)
  • International Humanist Award - International Humanist and Ethical Union (2002)
  • Eisenhower Medal for Leadership and Service USA (2000)
  • Leontief Prize - Global Development and Environment Institute (2000)
  • Honorary Companion of Honour UK (2000)
  • Honorary Citizenship of Bangladesh (1999)
  • Bharat Ratna - India (1999)
  • Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences (1998)
  • Senior Fellow - Harvard Society of Fellows (1989 1998)
  • President - The Econometric Society (1984)
  • Honorary Fellowship - Institute of Social Studies (1982)
  • Honorary Member - American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1981)
  • Andrew D. White Professor at Large, Cornell University (1978 1984)
  • Drummond Professor of Political Economy at Oxford University (1977 1980)
  • Professor of Economics at Oxford University (1977 1980)
  • Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics (1971 1977)
  • Visiting Professor, Harvard University (1968 -1969)
  • Visiting Professor, University of California at Berkeley (1964 1965)
  • Professor of Economics at the Delhi School of Economics (1963 1971)
  • Visiting Associate Professor, Stanford University (196l)
  • Visiting Assistant Professor, M.I.T. (1960 - 196l)
  • Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge University (1957 1963)
  • Professor of Economics at Jadavpur University Calcutta (1956 1958)
  • Lifetime Achievement Award - United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN ESCAP)

Background / History

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.

Current / Past Roles & Positions

  • Nobel Memorial Prize winning Economist and Philosopher
  • Thomas W. Lamont University Professor, and Professor of Economics and Philosophy at Harvard University
  • Former master of Trinity College, Cambridge University (1998 - 2003)
  • Author of a number of influential books, including The Argumentative Indian and The Idea of Justice

Speaking Topics

  • Welfare Economics
  • High theory and Real World Economics
  • The idea of justice
  • The impact of our economic crises


"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

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