Professor Dorothy Wedderburn
Steel, Peta, The Independent (London, England)
Eminent social scientist
Dorothy Wedderburn was one of this country's most distinguished social scientists, establishing industrial strategy as a major discipline and identifying many of the problems of poverty which would have an impact on political and academic policies; she was also the major architect behind the merger of Bedford New College and Royal Holloway College, guiding the new institution through the difficult 1980s to become the highly esteemed institution that it is today.
A warm, dynamic, directly spoken woman, Wedderburn was born in Walthamstow, London in 1925. She was fiercely proud of her working- class background; her father, Frederick Barnard, was a carpenter and a trade-union activist while her mother Ethel, had left school at 13 to work in service. They were determined that their children would receive the opportunities they had missed; Dorothy's brother George won a scholarship to Cambridge and later become president of the Royal Statistical Society.
Wedderburn went to the local high school for girls and in 1943 won a scholarship to Girton College, Cambridge, reading economics. She joined the Communist party, as had her brother, and although she left in the late 1950s, she remained a left-wing member of the labour movement, albeit occasionally critical.
After university she became a civil-service research officer at the Board of Trade, returning to Cambridge following marriage to the economic historian AN (Max) Cole, where she spent 15 years first as a research officer, then as senior research officer in the department of applied economics. In 1960 her marriage ended, and two years later she married Bill Wedderburn, a labour lawyer, later a Labour peer.
In 1965, at the instigation of Joan Woodward she joined Imperial College as a lecturer, becoming reader, then professor in industrial sociology. She later became head of its department of social and economic studies. The pair attracted large sums of money from research councils and organisations such as Fords, ICI, the Post Office and government bodies, building up one of the most effective research facilities in this country. Their work on the relationship between structure, technology and performance earned them worldwide renown.
She had already contributed a series of studies that were to establish her reputation: The Economic Circumstances of Old People (1962); White Collar Redundancy (1964); The Aged in the Welfare State (1965, with Peter Townsend); Workers' Attitudes and Technology (1972) and Poverty, Inequality and Class Structure (1974) …
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Publication information: Article title: Professor Dorothy Wedderburn. Contributors: Steel, Peta - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: October 5, 2012. Page number: 46. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.