Lipsey awarded gold medal

December 01, 2005, vol. 34, no. 7
By Marianne Meadahl

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Professor emeritus Richard Lipsey is the recipient of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council's (SSHRC) highest honour, its gold medal for research achievement, recognizing his more than 50 years of contributions to economic research. The presentation was made at a gala event in Vancouver Nov. 30.

The SSHRC award, worth $100,000, is given to an individual whose leadership, dedication and originality of thought have significantly advanced understanding in their field of research, enriched Canadian society and contributed to the country's cultural and intellectual life.

Cited as one of Canada's most influential economists, Lipsey played a key role in the controversial debates on free trade between Canada and the U.S. in the 1980s. The involvement spawned three books on Canada-U.S. economic relations and catapulted him, then the senior economic advisor to the C.D. Howe Institute, into the media spotlight.

“I am pleased, honoured and flattered, and extremely grateful to SFU,” says Lipsey, a recipient of the Order of Canada, and nine honorary degrees from universities across the country and the U.K.

A founding professor of the University of Essex in the U.K., he became a fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIAR) in 1988 where he set up and led an international group studying long term economic growth and related policies.

He came to SFU in 1989 and retired in 1997, although he continued his research in the determinants of economic growth and technological change.

Lipsey's work has challenged accepted practices and changed the way economists, policymakers and business leaders carried out their work. “I always tried to make my work relevant to the real world, feeling that otherwise it was not worth doing,” says Lipsey. “And that idea was as much an inspiration for my pure research projects as it was for my teaching and policy work.”

His first article was published in 1956 while his first book, An Introduction to Positive Economics, was published in 1963. It was considered one of the most influential textbooks of the 20th century and altered how economists in the UK thought. Now 77, Lipsey says his textbooks were written with young economics students in mind and considers his most rewarding work mentoring students on to successful careers.

His latest book Economic Transformation: General Purpose Technologies and Long Term Economic Growth is the culmination of 14 years of work related to technological discovery and economic growth.

One of Lipsey's most important research discoveries challenged the practical value of the prevalent theories that were based on optimal conditions.

John Pierce, SFU's dean of arts and social sciences, says Lipsey's research “has touched virtually all aspects of theoretical and applied economics. He is committed to putting this research to work for Canadians,” Pierce adds, “whether through improving public policies or increasing the understanding of economic issues.”

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