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Alfred P. Thorne

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Alfred P. Thorne

Photograph of Alfred P. Thorne

Alfred Palmerston Thorne (May 4, 1913 – August 12, 2012) was a development economist, international consultant and educator. He was a featured university lecturer at a number of international campuses including Oxford University. Authoring many articles on the economic development experience of developing countries, his scholarly works were published by Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology,[1] Oxford Economic Papers, University of Puerto Rico, and University of the West Indies.[2] Among other works, Thorne authored the Size, Structure and Growth of the Economy of Jamaica: A National Economic Accounts Study.[3] The monograph traces the flow of national income throughout the country’s economic sectors. It was very well received[4][5] and has been collected by and taught at institutions and libraries across the globe.[6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16] Thorne was also a contributor to Development Without Aid by Leopold Kohr.[17]

Alfred P. Thorne received his PhD in Economics and Masters in Business Administration from Columbia University, and received a BComm Honors from the London School of Economics. He became a consultant to the Puerto Rico Planning Board and Department of Commerce, the United Nations, USAID, CIDES and several nations. He witnessed the regime change against Professor Juan Bosch in the Dominican Republic and was an active member of the Instituto de Estudios del Caribe (IEC), the International Association for Research in Income and Wealth. He corresponded with Noam Chomsky and Jan Tinbergen, and Ernst Schumacher asked to meet with him when Schumacher visited Puerto Rico.

Personal life

Alfred P. Thorne was the first child of Alfred Athiel Thorne (A. A. Thorne) and Violet Janet Ashurst.

Early Life and Education

Alfred P. Thorne was born in Georgetown, [18] The League was one of the first worker's rights unions established in the colony. Alfred P. Thorne's mother was Violet Janet Thorne (née Ashurst), an educator, artist, and mother of four sons and a daughter.

Alfred P. Thorne was an outstanding scholar and excelled in the British education system. He passed the Oxford and Cambridge Joint Board in 1929. He was fluent in English, Spanish, French, Latin and also proficient at reading and writing classical Greek and Latin to Oxford/Cambridge standards. During WWII, he completed his extramural studies and earned a B.Com (Honors) from the London School of Economics at the University of London in 1941.

In 1950 he earned a Masters degree from Columbia University Graduate School of Business. In May, 1958 he received official notification from the Columbia University Department of Economics that his doctoral thesis[19] had been accepted and was awarded a PhD in Economics.

Marriage and Family

Alfred P. Thorne married Edith Vivienne Thorne (née Campbell) in Georgetown, British Guiana on January 5, 1946 at St. Sidwell’s Church Lodge.[20] Vivienne was the second daughter of Mr. Charles A. Campbell. She had been a child prodigy at the piano and later went on to earn a Masters degree in Economics. Together with his wife, Thorne raised two children: Hugh C. Thorne and Alfred Thorne, Jr.

Thorne took early retirement from the University of Puerto Rico in 1977 to care for his youngest son, Alfred Jr., who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness years earlier. Thorne moved to New York in 1982 to resume his research work, which culminated in a book titled Poor By Design,[21] published in 2012. The book was completed with one of his granddaughters and chronicled on the blog Unraveling Poverty.


British Guiana

His career as an economist began in 1945 when he was recruited by Sir Winston Churchill’s cousin, Oscar A. Spencer, first economic adviser to the Governor of British Guiana, to assist with the country's first economic development plan. Alfred P. Thorne was tasked with forecasting the gross domestic product and national income for policy-making and planning.

New York City

In 1950, Columbia University Professor Carl S. Schoup, Alfred Thorne's former professor, recruited Thorne to join a team of leading economists to diagnose and analyze the financial problems of New York City. The team's work was published under the title The Financial Problems of the City of New York in 1952.[22]

Innovative View of Development in Jamaica

He was invited to join the research staff of the University of the West Indies in December of 1953. During his time there, he conducted a study that was published as a national income study of the economy of Jamaica, funded by the university, the British Government and the Government of Jamaica. It was the first disciplined and thorough look at the developing economy of Jamaican. Thorne's approach to the study was an innovation that used accounting as a framework to trace the flow of income from one economic sector to the next. The report of this study was published as the monograph[3] in 1955. The monograph was praised for its innovations in national income accounting and use in economic planning and forecasting in a review by Professor Ursula Hicks of Oxford University.[4] The February, 1957 review referred to as “…sufficient to demonstrate to any developing country the great value of such knowledge for the successful planning of the development process.” The monograph also became required reading at some of the leading universities. The research published in that study has been widely utilized by economists.[23]

Global Work

From 1955 to 1965 Alfred P. Thorne joined the faculty of the newly created University of Puerto Rico Graduate School Economics. Two years later he was invited to be a consultant on Planning Board of the Office of the Governor of Puerto Rico.

In June of 1959, he was invited to present a paper at First Latin American Regional Conference organized by the United Nations and International Association for Research In Income and Wealth, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. An English version of the paper was published in Harvard University’s The Review of Economics and Statistics, November, 1962, titled "Sector Income Accounting and Analysis for Latin American and Caribbean Economies—More Appropriate Equations".

From 1961 to 1962 he was a guest lecturer at Oxford University for Professors Frankel and Ursula Hicks. He was offered a full-time post at the university, but for family reasons could not accept. During the 1960s he also served as a council member of the International Association for Research in Income and Wealth and was invited to be a non-resident member at Queen Elizabeth House.

He returned to the University of Puerto Rico and became a consultant to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) the following year. Through his work as a consultant, he visited various Caribbean countries and formally proposed development plans to the U. S. government regarding economic development in these countries.

In the summer of 1964 he was a U.S.-sponsored visiting professor Universidad Mayor de San Francisco Xavier and Universidad Mayor de San Andres in La Paz, Bolivia. From January through June of the following year, he was a visiting professor at Rutgers University. He became a professor at the newly formed Graduate School of Planning, University of Puerto Rico in August 1965. He also taught courses at the Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo.


During the 1969-70 academic year he took a sabbatical during which he traveled around the world to conduct research on what became his last book. His travels included visiting the London—British Library, where he focused economic policies in the former British colonies. He also visited Paris—Les Archives, to study material related to what had been the French colonies. During that visit, he met with Dr. Bernard Gazes, France’s chief economist and learned about France’s approaches to making it’s economic policies. During his visit to the Netherlands he had a comparable interview with Professor Jan Tinbergen, who had just won the Nobel Prize for Economics, regarding similar matters on economic policy formation in the Netherlands.

During the same trip, he interviewed Norway and Sweden's chief economists and with Malta's Minister of Finance. Dr. Thorne also visited Senegal, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia and interviewed both government officials and with non-government persons. He also obtained relevant economic policy information for Pakistan and India, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan through relevant officials in those countries. He also stopped in Tokyo briefly before returning to Puerto Rico.

Alfred P. Thorne warned the Puerto Rican government of the unsustainable trajectory that the country was traveling on in an OpEd published in the San Juan Star in 1972.[24]

He retired from the University of Puerto Rico in 1977. His work has been collected by universities, banks and other institutions of higher learning around the globe.[1][4][6][8][10][25][26]

His last book is the culmination of his experiences and years of research. It explains why some underdeveloped countries remain so after many decades of economic stagnation for their poorest inhabitants.

Conference Presentations

“Sector Income Accounting and Analysis for Latin American and Caribbean Economies—More Appropriate Equations” was presented in Spanish at the First Latin American Regional Conference sponsored by the International Association for Research in Income and Wealth and the United Nations in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (June, 1959).

“Comparison of Growth Rates of Jamaica and Puerto Rico” presented at the International Conference in Corfu, Greece, 1965, sponsored by the International Association for Research in Income and Wealth. This paper was published in the conference proceedings.

1957 Conference on International Development in Jamaica

Conference on Economics, London 1962

Montreal 1969 international conference on economics

“Foreign Sector Lessons of the Puerto Rican Development Experience”[27]


  1. ^ a b Thorne, Alfred P. Sector Income Accounting and Analysis for Latin American and Caribbean Economies--More Appropriate Equations. The Review of Economics and Statistics. Vol. 44, No. 4, Nov., 1962.
  2. ^ Thorne, Alfred P. Revisions, and Suggestions for Deflating the Gross Product Estimates for Jamaican-type Economies. Social and Economic Studies Vol. 9, No. 1 (MARCH, 1960), pp. 41-56.
  3. ^ a b Thorne, Alfred P. Size, Structure and Growth of the Economy of Jamaica: A National Economic Accounts Study. Kingston, Jamaica: Institute of Social and Economic Research, 1955.
  4. ^ a b c Hicks, Ursula K. "Learning About Economic Development", Oxford Economic Papers, (1957) 9(1): 1-13.
  5. ^ American Economic Association. The American Economic Review. Vol. 47, No. 1 (Mar., 1957), pp. 186-189
  6. ^ a b Stewart, I. G. "The Practical Uses of Input-Output Analysis", Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Volume 5, Issue 1, pages 50–59, February 1958.
  7. ^ Size, Structure and Growth of the Economy of Jamaica. Social and Economic Studies, Vol. 4, No. 4, December, 1955.
  8. ^ a b List of books and serials on the British West Indies held in the Bobst Library circulating collections, Research Institute for the Study of Man (RISM) Collections at New York University. Retrieved on Monday, November 26, 2012.
  9. ^ University of Guyana Library
  10. ^ a b Comitas Institute for Anthropological Study (CIFAS). "Chapter 41: General Economics", Section VII: Socioeconomic Activities and Institutions (41-52).
  11. ^ Size, Structure and Growth of the Economy of Jamaica on
  12. ^ Aronson,Robert L. "Labour Commitment Among Jamaican Bauxite Workers: A CASE STUDY". Social and Economic Studies Vol. 10, No. 2 (June, 1961), pp. 156-182.
  13. ^ McBain, Helen, "Income Inequality in the Caribbean: Case Study of Jamaica" in Integration & Trade, [Inter-American Development Bank], Volume 5 (September–December) 2001. Retrieved on Monday, November 26, 2012.
  14. ^ Don Mitchell QBE QC Mitchell's West Indian Bibliography, 11th Ed. Retrieved on Monday, November 26, 2012.
  15. ^ Worldcat list of libraries holding Size, Structure and Growth of the Economy of Jamaica. [1]. Retrieved on March 12, 2013.
  16. ^ Social and Economic Studies, Vol 37, No.s 1 & 2. [2]. Retrieved on February 15, 2014.
  17. ^ Kohr, Leopold. Development Without Aid: The Translucent Society. 1973. The book is available via Google Books. Retrieved on Sunday, November 25, 2012.
  18. ^ "History Today: Alfred Athiel Thorne", Stabroek News, Guyana, Monday, Feb. 10, 1997. Retrieved on Monday, November 26, 2012.
  19. ^ The Jamaican economy and its portrayal and analysis through appropriate systems of sector and national accounts. Thesis--Columbia University.
  20. ^ The Daily Argosy, January 13, 1946: page 2. As recorded on accessed December 19, 2012.
  21. ^ Thorne, Alfred P. Poor By Design. Terracentric Press. 2012.
  22. ^ Schoup, Carl S. et al. "The Financial Problem of The City of New York: A Report to the Mayor's Committee on Management Survey". Finance Project. June, 1952.
  23. ^ Gene M, Tidrick. WAGE SPILLOVER AND UNEMPLOYMENT IN A WAGE GAP ECONOMY: THE JAMAICAN CASE. Research Memorandum No. 4+7, Center for Development Economics Williams College, Wiliamstown, Massachusetts, June 1972. Hosted on, accessed December 19, 2012.
  24. ^ Thorne, Alfred P. “Updating Economic Planning Here,” The San Juan Star. April 11, 1972, Focus/Forum, 20.
  25. ^ Caribbean Journal Index, Digital Library of Trinidad and Tobago.
  26. ^ Thorne, Alfred P., Revisions, and Suggestions for Deflating Gross Product Estimates, Social and Economic Studies. INSTITUTE OF SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC RESEARCH, University College of the West Indies, Jamaica, W.I. Hosted via Research in Agricultural & Applied Economics, University of Minnesota.
  27. ^ Latin American Twentieth-Century Pamphlets, Part 1. IDC Publishers
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