SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit

In memory of Calestous Juma

It was with deep sadness that we heard the news of the death of Professor Calestous Juma in Boston on 15 December 2017. He had been unwell for some time but his passing away was still a shock to his many friends and colleagues.

He had become an extremely well-known international figure in academic and development circles but in the early days it was arguably his years as a student at SPRU (University of Sussex) that helped to form the basis for his later work. Although SPRU had from its inception been involved in ancillary teaching to other parts of the University, it had only just begun to establish its own Graduate Studies Programme in the early 1980s. Calestous was one of our first applicants to that programme, supported at the time by a scholarship from IDRC in Canada. 

Calestous Juma. Photo courtesy of the Harvard Kennedy SchoolCalestous Juma. Photo courtesy of the Harvard Kennedy School

Supervised by Professor Norman Clark, he sailed through his studies, completing his DPhil in two and a half years (at the time a record, we believe), before returning to Kenya to establish (along with his wife, Alison) the African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS) in Nairobi. ACTS has now become an International Governmental Organisation with a strong world-wide reputation. At its inception Calestous always had in mind that this was an opportunity to use SPRU as a template to set up an institution that would have an analogous structure and aims, focusing particularly on technology development in Africa. He then went on to fulfil a variety of roles, in particular as Executive Secretary for the Convention on Biodiversity before being appointed as Professor of Professor of Practice of International Development at the Kennedy School in Harvard University in 1999.

He was awarded an Honorary Degree from University of Sussex in 2006, in recognition of his work on the applications of science and technology in both the developed and developing world. That year, he was also elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in London, the only SPRU alumnus to have achieved this honour.

Calestous always felt a strong sense of loyalty to SPRU and Sussex and stayed in contact up to the final weeks before his death. On a personal level, he was a good friend to many of us and we shall miss him greatly.

Professor Johan Schot, Director of Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU).

Read Calestous Juma's obituaries:

The Economist

The Harvard Crimson

Nature International Journal of Science

Leave a note, read about his legacy, or find the most current information on ways to pay your respects on the Belfer Center's tribute page.