Professor Stanisław Wellisz obituary

8 March 2016

welliszProfessor Stanislaw Wellisz was one of the most known and respected economists of Polish origin in the international scientific community. His works were and are still published in the world’s top scientific journals. In the nineties, his impact on changes in the academic curricula of economists in Poland, especially at the Faculty of Economic Sciences, University of Warsaw, should not be underestimated.

Professor Wellisz left Poland in September 1939. He completed higher education at Harvard University having obtained in 1954 Ph.D. in economics. He also completed a two-year apprenticeship as a Fulbright Fellow at Cambridge University (England). His academic career was truly impressive. Since 1957 until 1963 he has worked at the University of Chicago, Graduate School of Business. Since 1964 he has worked as a professor at Columbia University (New York) and since 1993 in a prestigious position of Kathryn and Shelby Collum Davis Professor of Economics and International Relations. In the years of 1977−1982 he served as a Dean of the Faculty of Economics at Columbia University.

In 1959 he came to Poland and taught and conducted research at the University of Warsaw and the Warsaw School of Planning and Statistics as a scholar of the Ford Foundation. At the turn of 1983 and 1984 as a Fulbright scholar he was at the Catholic University of Lublin.

As a researcher and theorist Professor Wellisz stood firmly on the grounds of economic reality, which only accurate diagnosis allows for formulation of theses about the general and theoretical knowledge value. It is this attitude to research that has enabled Professor Wellisz to make important statements about the impact of appropriate solutions in the sphere of regulation on the efficiency of capital allocation. Professor’s research on the externalities of specific situations and solutions is particularly important from the point of view of the necessity or reduction of the State interference in the context of policy and regulatory system.

In 1982 Wellisz and Findlay presented the general equilibrium model, in which they analyzed the influence of pressure groups on the level of tariffs. This article was the first attempt at modeling such influence on economic policy.

In 1993 Wellisz and Findlay, along with several co-authors, published a book on comparative study of the impact of political factors on the development of five small “open economies” [The Political Economy of Poverty, Equity and Growth: Five Small Open Economies, New York, Oxford University Press, 1993]. The publication revealed that the impact of political factors on the growth rate of particular countries is, in many cases, more important than the influence of natural resources held by the country.

In 1971 Wellisz published an article criticizing the planned economy approach to development problems [“Lessons of Twenty Years of Planning in Developing Countries”, Economica, May 1971]. During this period, most economists dealing with development problems, as well as the World Bank and other UN agencies recognized the long-term plans as the basis for a rational development policy.

In 1970, having already had research experience of the planning of Western European countries that used the indicative planning and of countries with command-and-distribution economies, Professor Wellisz formulated and justified the thesis that in underdeveloped countries planning not only it does not help to reduce the gap separating them from the industrialized countries, but inhibits the growth or increases the distance.

Since 1989, Professor Wellisz joined actively in the process of reforming the Polish economy. Since that time, he has spent more time in Poland than in the United States. He became an advisor to Leszek Balcerowicz.

Starting from 1990 he has published numerous articles on the Polish economy [see e.g. “Inflation and Stabilization in Poland”, in Mario Blejer (ed.), Stabilization in Transition Economies, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1996].

Since 1992, Professor Wellisz has been employed at the Faculty of Economic Sciences, University of Warsaw (WNE UW). In 1992 he organized the Chair of Microeconomics and was its first Director. Thanks to Professor Wellisz in 1992 at the Faculty of Economic Sciences a joint educational programme of the Faculty and Columbia University in New York was initiated. Every year at the Faculty there were two or three American lecturers. Most of the activities under the Columbia Programme were conducted in the English language. After completing these studies, students obtained the University of Warsaw degree and Columbia University Certificate.

Since 1995, thanks to the efforts of Professor Wellisz and funds from the four major American foundations, at the Faculty of Economic Sciences Centre for Economic Research of Central and Eastern Europe was launched. The main objective of the Centre was to develop advanced economic studies in Poland and in Central European countries. The Centre granted research fellowships to young economists from Poland and neighboring countries. Thanks to sizable funding, to Centre prominent economists from universities abroad were invited.

Professor Wellisz has not limited his activities only WNE. In 1991, together with the Polish economists he launched the Stefan Batory Foundation – Summer School of Economics. The main objective of this school was to raise the level of knowledge of market economy theory among young employees of academia working at universities in Poland and Central European countries. Thanks to the funding, mainly from the Ford Foundation, the courses of the Summer School of Economics were attended by over 600 people from 12 countries of Central Europe and the former Soviet State. Invited lectures were the most prominent economists from the best universities world-wide.

Educational activities of Professor Wellisz largely contributed to the emergence of a large group of young, well-prepared Polish economists, who are able to compete on a very advanced international research market.

Great strength and contribution of Professor Stanisław Wellisz was not only discovery of economic laws, educating students and young researchers, but also extremely high sensitivity and openness, a great attitude to the people, which meant that he had an impact not only on their scientific development, but also their attitudes and behaviours and thus keeping him in grateful memory, regardless of the passage of the years.

In recognition by the scientific community of the University of Warsaw Professor Stanisław Wellisz was given Doctor Honoris Causa title of our University in 1998.

In 2014, Professor Stanisław Wellisz received the Officer’s Cross of the Order of the Rebirth of Poland.


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