Michael Lipton 1937 – 2023

Published on 3 April 2023

It is with sadness that we announce the death of IDS Emeritus Fellow Michael Lipton, who was a friend, and colleague to many at IDS and beyond. Michael had been unwell for some time and also suffered the loss of his wife, the scholar Merle Lipton, at the end of last year.

Michael Lipton sitting on a bench.

Melissa Leach, Director of IDS says
‘Michael has long been an icon of Development Studies, of Development Economics, and of IDS. A brilliant scholar, formidable intellect and polymath, his paradigm-shifting contributions, from Urban Bias and Village Studies to his myriad works on agriculture and rural development have helped define our field. He has always stood out for his uncompromising rigour and insistence on clarity – something that shone through his active contributions to IDS as an Emeritus Fellow right up to the last few years. Many will also remember him as an exceptionally generous and kind colleague and mentor. IDS and our whole sector will miss Michael enormously, but his legacy will live on’.


Michael was a British economist specialising in rural poverty in developing countries, including issues relating to land reform and urban bias. He spent much of his career at the University of Sussex, but also contributed to the work of international institutions, such as the World Bank’s 2000/2001 World Development Report on poverty.

He was reader, then professorial fellow, at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) from 1967 to 1994, and since 1994 was research professor at the University of Sussex’s Poverty Research Unit, which he founded.

Heartfelt condolences go out from the IDS community to Michael’s family and friends.


IDS Research Associate Simon Maxwell has written an obituary of Michael which has been published in The Guardian.

Tribute page

We have a tribute page for Michael on the IDS website, if you wish to write something then please email Gary Edwards with your message and we will post it up.

Key contacts

Gary Edwards

Senior Marketing and Data Protection Officer

+ 44 (0)1273 915637