Amartya Sen was born on November 3rd, 1933, at Shantiniketan, the University town in Bengal established by Rabindranath Tagore. It is believed that Tagore himself named the little boy. His name means ‘immortal’ – an apt name, because his work has influenced the world so much that he will always be remembered.
After his schooling in Dhaka, now in Bangladesh, Amartya studied at Presidency College, Calcutta, and later at Cambridge, UK, where he earned his PhD in Economics.
Amartya Sen has taught at the Delhi School of Economics, Oxford and Cambridge, among other institutions. He is now a Professor at Harvard University.
As a child, Amartya was deeply touched by the 1943 Famine of Bengal, which left over 3 million people dead. He focussed on poverty, famine and inequality in his work. He felt that famine deaths can be avoided if Governments take steps to replace the income that poor labourers lose when they don’t get work because crops fail. He suggested practical ways to do this.
Because of his focus on the welfare of the poor, Amartya Sen has been called ‘the conscience of his profession’.
His work has influenced the efforts of Governments of various countries to ensure the welfare of the poor.
Among his most influential books are ‘Development as Freedom’, ‘Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlements and Deprivation’, ‘On Economic Inequality’ and ‘The Idea of Justice’. He contributed to the Human Development Index, a very important document published by the United Nations.
Amartya Sen was awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1998. He was the first non-American to win the National Humanities Prize. India gave him its highest Civilian Award, the Bharat Ratna. He also featured in Time Magazine’s ‘World’s 50 Most Influential People Who Matter’ list.