Short biography of the sensitive economist : Amartya Sen

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Now read about an internationally famous Indian, who won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1998.

When Amartya Sen was born in 1933, it was Rabindranath Tagore standing name. I can see the boy will grow into an outstanding person,” he told the parents.

Amartya Sen, selected for the 1998 Nobel Prize by the Swedish Royal Academy of Science, was the sixth Indian to be so honoured. He has spent his lifetime working towards investing economics with concerns that are far from mundane – social choice, poverty index, studies of famine – topics that are light years away from the research of the past few laureates, who concentrated on market-oriented research.

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Public pressure had been building up to give Sen the prize for some years. An Internet poll among economists on who should be the winner in 1998 had put Sen at the top. But the Nobel committee of about a dozen top economists whose identities are not disclosed were unmoved by peer pressure. In fact in 1996, The Times ran a campaign for Sen. Kenneth Arrow, who led this campaign, is a pioneer in the work on welfare theory and had himself won the Nobel prize for economics in 1972. Arrow has described Sen as ‘the conscience’ of economics.

But Sen’s work finally had to be acknowledged. His wok, since his very first publication ‘Collective Choice and Social Welfare’ in 1970, had already made him a cult figure among students, academics and policy makers.

Sen, who is a proud Indian, was born into a family of scholars. His grandfather was a venerable Sanskrit scholar who helped Tagore at Shantiniketan. His father was an agro-scientist. To this was added what he saw personally. As a 10-year-old in Dhaka, Amartya Sen saw the tragic 1943 Bengal famine, a man-made catastrophe in which about five million people died. This tragedy left a deep impression on the young Amartya and perhaps drove him on his quest for ways to measure the reasons for food, educational and other deprivations.

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