Professor Chris Freeman, renowned expert on the social and economic consequences of developments in science and technology, passed away on 16th August 2010, aged 88.
His funeral ceremony and a celebration of his life was held on Thursday, 26th August in Lewes, Sussex.
A memorial service was held at Sussex University on 30th November; the university are also collecting remembrances and anecdotes about Chris.
His family and colleagues are organizing a foundation in his name to preserve and help propagate his intellectual legacy. If you would like to make a contribution, please bookmark this page and check back here for details, which will be posted as soon as the legal requirements have been concluded.
Obituaries and Tributes
Please see the family obituary and the links below for tributes to Chris’s life and work. If you knew Chris and would like to leave a message, please use the comments area at the bottom of the page.
- Funeral Tribute, by Geoff Oldham, 26th August 2010.
- The Times, ‘Professor Christopher Freeman’, 18th August 2010 (paid access only)
- ‘In Memoriam: Chris Freeman’, United Nations University, Maastricht Economic and social Research and training centre on Innovation and Technology (UNU-MERIT)
- ‘Chris Freeman Remembrances’, SPRU – Science and Technology Policy Research
- The Financial Times, ‘Pioneering analytical economist who retained human touch’, 25th August 2010, by Nicholas Stern (subscriber access only)
- The Telegraph, ‘Christopher Freeman’, 7th September 2010
- The Guardian, ‘Christopher Freeman obituary’, 8th September 2010, by Mary Kaldor
- The Independent, ‘Professor Christopher Freeman: Influential economist whose radical views gave him a healthy suspicion of capitalism’, 5th November 2010, by Jan Toporowski and Alan Freeman
- Bernal and the Social Function of Science – Science Video, Chris Freeman, Science Policy Research Unit
- Chris Freeman’s Contribution to Innovation Studies, by Jan Fagerberg, Morten Fosaas, Martin Bell, and Ben Martin
Chris was like an antique philosopher disguised as a monk-saint with a mission to create a new faith or science, called “economics of innovation”. I had met him for the first time in 1966 November in Lancaster House, then housing the new-born SPRU. Geoff Oldham, Charles Cooper, Roy McLeod, Jackie Fuller the first and last assistant to him, and a small group of researchers occupied limited rooms in the first floor. Jackie, graciously had found a precious room for me i.e., as the first (OECD) research fellow of the SPRU. Chris advised me to read Schumpeter and some other OECD literature.
Chris, then living with Peggotty in Kingston Village near the University, used to commute by foot, even in the rainy days, wearing rubber boots, a precaution against deep mud. As the tank commander and Marshal Montgomery’s driver in the WW2 (once he told me) Chris rejected to own even a cheap automobile, a bourgeois habit. When we visited in 1970 (with Nuşin, my wife and son) the Freemans (and C. Cooper) they were living in Kingston, there were huge geese taller than my son Emre, swarming the garden, he said, “these are my guardians and lawn mowers”.
It was a great honour for me to be participating in an UNCTAD project and paper on the “transfer of technology” (1967) my name appearing with Chris Freeman and Geoff Oldham. On account of my great contribution (!) to this paper, Chris sent me to Paris to participate in an OECD Pilot Team Project’s evaluation conference with my wife, as members of the Turkish team. In fact, he was highly interested in development of poor countries through implementation of S&T plans and policies.
My fellowship came to an end in 1967 and I had to return to my job in TÜBİTAK, but all the time missed the SPRU and friends in Sussex. Next time, I returned to the SPRU to prepare my PhD thesis in 1970, to the Mantell Building. This time Chris had a room but was not the director. The SPRU had a world-wide reputation for being the hub of science&technology and innovation policies research, and education. In March 1971, a military Coup that occurred in Turkey (a well established Turkish tradition!) prevented my further stay in Sussex, since my passport was not extended. As a suspicious person like me, Chris arranged for me a paying project and a Home Office work permission, even proposed me to consider political asylum in the UK. It was a difficult decision to make and I finally returned home like a good citizen.
After this I visited UK and Sussex several times. In one of those visits I spent a very enjoyable afternoon with Chris in his house in Lewes. We dined together, talked very much on politics and women. He was recently divorced from Maggie, but they were going to remain good friends.
Last time I saw him, together with Jackie it was in November 2003. I had come to present him the Turkish translation of his famous book Economics of Industrial Innovation (with Luc Soete, 1997). He had written a special introduction for the Turkish edition. My translation of the book into Turkish had been published by TÜBİTAK in 2003 as Yenilik İktisadı which sold quite a few copies; a small record for a scientific book in this country.
We met in Lewes Station and strolled around by Jackie’s car, (he had difficulty walking with his crutches, which he had to depend on then) lunched in a Sussex Down’s Pub, then visited old friends Dr. Oldham and Brenda in their country house. It was an unforgettable day in our life for my wife and me. Unfortunately, I will not be able to present my new book in Turkish, “Science, Technology and Politics, 2009” which was a kind of homage to my mentor, and scientific father, Prof. Chris Freeman. His death is an irreplaceable loss for the science policy community of the World.
I will always remain his loyal pupil…
Ergun Türkcan, Professor of Economics (Ret.), Ankara University
PS. It is a pity that I will not be able to attend his funeral.
I only discovered that I was Chris’s first doctoral student at SPRU (in 1967) when I came down to SPRU in the some time in the 90s for the 25th anniversary celebrations. I moved far beyond (strayed away?) from academia in my career but always enjoyed keeping in touch with him and with SPRU. We were on Christmas card terms and I still have the card he sent me last Christmas, which mentioned his stroke (though his writing was still strong). He was a lovely guy and always hugely supportive.
I read the obituary in the FT and penned the following letter to the FT. I doubt they will print it but it is August, and I do seem to have a “quota” of 2 letters a year (or that’s how it seems).
The deservedly fulsome tribute to Chris Freeman in today’s FT (“Pioneer in the economics of innovation who retained the human touch”, 26 August) reminds me of something that happened in the late 1960s when I was his first doctoral student at the then newly-formed Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex. I had obtained a scholarship to study in Seattle for a few months but had no money for the fare. In his typically quiet but effective way Chris obtained the necessary funding from – of all places – the US Air Force, which was at that time devoting all its energies to bombing North Vietnam “back to the stone age”. He had somehow discovered an obscure USAF fund dedicated to supporting research into the process of technological innovation.
I just wanted to put down a few words about Chris. He was a great man, and this is why: he always made me feel he was really interested in me, but not because he wanted anything out of it, just because he was. I could see he was interested in lots of other people and things, too – this is not entirely egocentric. So apart from being funny, kind and wise, he was the only man who ever read my PhD who didn’t have to because he was an examiner – and he wrote me a smart letter full of interesting thoughts about it – I’ll never forget that.
I was doing Economics as a minor to my chemistry which allowed me to get into operational research MSc and courses with Chris. A more modest man I have not met. He did not even put his book on the reading list even tho it was entirely appropriate. I am still a strong believer of innovation being one of the key drivers to the economy. I really enjoyed him as a teacher and a man. I apologise for this tribute being so late, but it is no less heartfelt!
He is a great man and teacher. Somrone I never forget. My greatest respect!