[URPE] Christopher Freeman, 11th September 1921 - 16th August 2010
afreeman at iwgvt.org
Tue Aug 24 05:25:18 MDT 2010
As you may by now know, Christopher Freeman passed away on 16th August 2010.
We are writing to those who knew him, or who have been touched by his work,
to share a memory with you, and to let you know, if you wish, how you can
contribute to the celebration of his life.
The Science Policy Research Unit, which he founded, has a website at
http://www.sussex.ac.uk/spru/about/chris where you can share experiences of
working with him. We have set up a personal website at
<http://www.freemanchris.org/> http://www.freemanchris.org/ which we expect
to be ready by Monday and to which you are welcome to contribute, including
photographs and personal memories. It will carry as complete as possible a
record of his contribution to economics and science.
SPRU is organising a memorial later in this year; please contact them for
details. The funeral ceremony, for family and friends, will be at in Lewes
on Thursday 26th August at Pelham House Hotel at 1pm. There will be a
reception afterwards. For all information please contact the funeral
directors <http://www.arkafunerals.net> www.arkafunerals.net.
We are considering how to preserve the legacy of Chris's contribution to
knowledge. One suggestion is a charitable trust dedicated to this end. If
you think this is a good idea and feel you can help, please contact Alan
Freeman at <mailto:afreeman at iwgvt.org> afreeman at iwgvt.org.
This has been a sad time for everybody. We have composed a personal record
of his life and work, which were intimately connected, and which follows.
Christopher Freeman 11th September 1921 - 16th August 2010
A light has gone from the world. Christopher Freeman passed away early on
Monday 16th August at home, surrounded by those he loved, looking out over
our small garden to the open blue skies beyond. On 11 September he would
have been 89. To many he is known as the creator of the Science Policy
Research Unit (SPRU) and a founder of the theory of innovation, the
economics of science, and the systematic study of long-term movements in
economic growth, for which the world is in his debt.
As his children, we knew more. Son of Arnold, Sidney Webb's secretary and an
early pioneer of the Workers' Educational Association, Chris left school as
an idealistic communist. Plunged into war, he was spared none of the horrors
on the Western Front or in the Camps he entered with the advancing allied
forces. Witness to the worst and best of what humans could do to each
other, and propelled by great love of humanity, nature, and art, he sought
to build a new world with his wife Peggotty, a socialist and talented
linguist of American and German Jewish parentage. Blacklisted in academia,
he embarked on the life of a working class organiser, first with the WEA in
Clydeside, then the Daily Worker, followed by the Society for Cultural
Relations with Russia.
His close contact with inner circles of the German communists had already
led him, sadly and with great pain, to conclude well before he left the
party in 1956 that it was not the vehicle for a future he never ceased to
work for. A spell with the Post Office and then the London Export group,
specializing in trade with China and Russia, opened a door at the National
Institute for Economic Research. He soon dedicated himself to marrying
economics to science, which he saw not just as the vehicle of enlightenment
but as the means end poverty and suffering worldwide.
At the invitation of Sussex Vice-Chanceller Asa Briggs he established SPRU
in 1966. A twin of the Institute for Development Studies, it was born in an
atmosphere of renewal driven by an alliance between the Mitteleuropaische
intelligentsia that poured into the country before and during the war, and
the spirit of scientific endeavour that had shaped Britain from the
Industrial Revolution to the apocalyptic discoveries of wartime. These
pioneer institutions were wrought almost from nothing, the joint work of a
band of fellow-idealists from all countries and walks of life who wandered
in and out of our house in bewildering numbers, many remaining our friends
today. His engagement with this 'invisible college' of scientists and
political theorists framed what was becoming postcolonial Britain; its
outlook is conveyed in a lecture on J.D. Bernal singled out for us by
several of the hundreds of students and researchers whose rise to eminence
took them through SPRU's portals. (vega.org.uk/video/programme/86
His remarkable partnership with Carlota Perez launched another chapter of
this story. The doubts and fears that shaped his young years still haunted
his children. The shadow of the Bomb still hung over us all, while cruel
invasions, barbaric oppressions and grinding poverty still stalked the
world. An emerging environmental crisis was already becoming evident. For
Chris, science was the means to human liberation, but required governance,
direction, and institutional support to put it at the service of the poor
and forestall its abuse by the rich. He poured out papers and ideas,
assembled on freemanchris.org <http://www.freemanchris.org> , a
collaboration between Carlota and his grandson Leo, and on SPRU's website at
sussex.ac.uk/spru/about/chris <http://www.sussex.ac.uk/spru/about/chris> .
His world view brought him almost visionary foresight, bringing to attention
issues only now entering popular discourse. His devastating critique of the
OECD's 1976 McCracken report was one of the first clear economic judgements
that postwar growth had come to an end, and would not return without
conscious state and institutional intervention. Even as the Soviet and
Eastern Blocs fell apart, he was by the end of the 1980s predicting the
Chinese Economic miracle. He began writing about green technological
revolution in the early 1990s; a remarkable interview, whimsically published
in 2000 as If I Ruled The World, outlines a manifesto for a hypothetical
'first woman president of the USA' to be elected in 2004, which could easily
serve as required reading for Obama's advisors today.
Professor without a doctorate, his tolerance, aversion to elitism, and his
engagement with the personal lives of his friends and colleagues is
legendary. Yet It was not a casual or accidental personality trait but the
outcome of reflection on the human costs, witnessed first hand in his youth,
of acting otherwise. Appreciation and acceptance of diversity were woven
into his approach to life as much as theory. As a crabbed neoliberal
dogmatism began to close in on his profession, he joined his name to the
first modern call for a return to pluralism in economics, published in the
American Economic Review in 1992. The breadth and depth of his gifts to
economic theory is an enduring testimony to an inspiration which helped so
many others, whether of his mind or a contrary one, to give of their best.
Chris's love for the world was witnessed by all he came in contact with,
especially his five children, his five grandchildren, his first wife
Peggotty, his second wife Maggie, and his widow Carlota. A nature-lover long
before it became fashionable, he was a passionate and active member of the
Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. At the time, we may have
complained about a succession of far-from-conventional birdwatching holidays
in marshes, windswept seashores and probably, were it not for Peggotty's
intervention, sewage farms, but our time spent learning bird calls and
listing strange species has brought its reward: in every distant cry from
every creature flying overhead to distant places, we hear the voice of our
wonderful father, free at last.
Lieutenant-Captain, father, comrade, Professor; may the world return the
love you gave it.
Lewes, Friday, 20 August 2010
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