Professor Sir Tony Atkinson, 1944-2017
03 Jan 2017
Leading economist and inequality researcher Professor Sir Tony Atkinson, Senior Research Fellow at The Institute for New Economic Thinking at the Oxford Martin School, has died at the age of 72.
Sir Tony, who pioneered the study of inequality, was Centennial Professor at the London School of Economics and a Fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford, where he was previously Warden. He was also a Fellow of the British Academy, and had been President of the Royal Economic Society, the Econometric Society, the European Economic Association and the International Economic Association.
He edited the Journal of Public Economics for 25 years and was the author of more than 20 books, the most recent of which, ‘Inequality: What Can Be Done?’ was published in 2015. In December 2016 he presented the report of the World Bank’s Commission on Global Poverty, which he had chaired.
Achim Steiner, Director of the Oxford Martin School, said Sir Tony was “an exceptional colleague, renowned economist, and a brilliant advocate for confronting the injustice of poverty and inequality in our midst”. He added: “On behalf of the Oxford Martin School community I would like to offer our condolences to Professor Atkinson's family and friends. We share their sense of grief and loss. Both his intellectual rigour and his compassion for others will live on in the ideas and the people he shared them with throughout his life.”
Sir Tony played a key role in building the School’s new Inequality and Prosperity research programme, and former Director Professor Ian Goldin praised his “extraordinary generosity and wisdom”, and paid tribute to his “pathbreaking work on inequality and use of economics to shine light on neglected conceptual and policy questions”. He added: “His exceptional intellect, twinkling eyes and wonderful character will live on through our memories and the work and individuals he inspired."
Eric Beinhocker, Executive Director of the Institute for New Economic Thinking at the Oxford Martin School, said Sir Tony – “a giant of economics” - had carried out groundbreaking work on inequality when it was a deeply unfashionable subject, laying the foundations for the advances and interest in the topic today. “He was also an outstanding mentor to generations of students and postdocs, and a warm and generous colleague, always available to share his wisdom and insight,” he said.
Brian Nolan, Director of the Oxford Martin Programme on Inequality and Prosperity, said Sir Tony’s commitment to research that made a real difference to people’s lives “always shone through”, adding: “With inequality now centre-stage his voice will be sorely missed, as will his inspiration and guidance; his legacy will be profound."
Colleague Dr Max Roser, with whom Sir Tony had worked closely in recent years, added: “I think what stood out was how generous and modest Tony was. He was so very busy with the many research projects that he cared about, but at the same he was always very generous with his time when one needed his help. Every scholar of inequality today is standing on his shoulders.”
Sir Tony’s long-time friend Nick Stern of the LSE has written an excellent obituary in the Guardian that gives an account of the incredible scope of the contributions Tony made to our field. For a full list of obituaries and for further information about Sir Tony please click here.