Search site



Obituary: Arthur Brown

Colleagues will be very sorry to learn of the death, on 28 February 2003, of Emeritus Professor Arthur Brown CBE.

Arthur Brown was born in Cheshire but was educated and lived most of his life in Yorkshire. He graduated from Queen’s College Oxford with a first in PPE in 1936. He was a Fellow of All Souls and a Lecturer at Hertford College Oxford, 1937-39 during which time he took his DPhil. He worked initially on the demand for money on which he contributed an article to the Oxford Studies in the Price Mechanism. He served the Second World War in Government service, initially in the Foreign Research and Press Service and then in the Research Department of the Foreign Office. He was in the Economic Section of the Offices of the Cabinet 1945-7 working on the implications of German re-armament and on the creation of the Government Statistical Service. He was appointed to the Chair in Economics at Leeds in 1947, which he held until his retirement in 1979. At the time of his appointment he was the youngest ever professor of economics in the UK, a record he held until the late 1960’s, when the (then) new universities (Essex, Warwick) appointed professors of mathematical economics. He was Head of Department until 1965, stepping down following constitutional reforms that he had initiated.

During his time at Leeds he continued with part-time Government service. He was involved in the de-colonization of Africa in the early 1960’s (following Harold Macmillan’s famous `winds of change’ speech) as a member of the East Africa Economic and Fiscal Commission and subsequently as a member of the Secretary of State’s Advisory Group on Central Africa. His extensive experience of the economics of warfare, armament and disarmament led to him being a UK appointee to the UN Consultative group on the Economic and Social Consequences of Disarmament 1961-2. He was a member of the Hunt Committee on Intermediate Areas 1967-9 and a member of the University Grants Committee 1969-78. He was President of Section F of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1958,was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1972 and awarded a CBE in 1974. He was awarded honorary doctorates by four universities. He was on the Council of the Royal Economic Society 1950-68 and again in 1974 and was its President 1976-8. In 1966 he was appointed Director of a major project on regional policy based at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research funded by the Department of Economic Affairs, and intended to provide the conceptual framework and empirical underpinnings for the regional policy initiative of the second Wilson government. In Leeds he was Pro-Vice-Chancellor 1975-7. Following his retirement he was an honorary lecturer in the predecessor to the Business School until 1988.

Arthur Brown was an eminent economist. He did significant work in international trade theory, monetary theory and inflation and regional economics. He wrote seven books and numerous journal articles in addition to over 50 articles on the economics of warfare during his time in government service. His 1948 book Applied Economics. Aspects of the World Economy in War and Peace was a standard text for many years. A major work was The Great Inflation, 1956 in which he has a claim to have discovered the Phillips’ curve some six years before Phillips. The difference was that, while he saw the theoretical case for a relationship between unemployment and inflation, he didn’t think that there was evidence that the relationship was stable. He was right.

Arthur was an applied economist, which he interpreted to mean the application of economics to assist in the formulation and assessment of policy. The elements of his applied economics were the development of the appropriate theory for the problem and the manipulation of available statistical data to get a `feel’ for the quantitative significance of the variables. In this field he had few equals. By modern standards this approach was ad hoc but it was used at a time before computers or largely even calculators and it provided a powerful tool for policy makers. He can be seen as one of a number of pioneers in the development of modern applied economics as opposed to econometrics (where he made no contribution).

Arthur had a great influence on a generation of students and lecturers. He was quietly spoken and invariably courteous and kind, particularly to younger staff, with a wry sense of humour and a host of tales. Those who knew him will be saddened by his passing.

The funeral was held at St Chad’s CE Church, Otley Road, Far Headingley, Leeds 16, at 11.30 am on Monday, 10 March 2003.

Published: 6 March 2003