December 15, 2017
Our colleague Calestous Juma--who passed away on December 15 at age 64 after a long illness--was a pioneering, prolific, and influential scholar/practitioner in science and technology policy for sustainable well-being. He joined HKS in 1999 as Director of the Science, Technology, and Innovation Project (a joint venture of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and the Center for International Development) and became Professor of the Practice of International Development in 2002, a position in which he maintained his exceptional productivity and engagement with policy, despite illness, up to the time of his death.
The diversity of responsibilities Calestous took on at HKS and in his prior professional life was simply extraordinary, as were the intelligence, energy, enthusiasm, and collegiality he brought to all of them. Within the HKS roles mentioned above, he also directed the Science, Technology, and Globalization Project and the Agricultural Innovation in Africa Project at BCSIA, as well as serving as Faculty Chair for the Masson Fellows Program and the Innovation for Economic Development series of executive programs. He taught HKS courses on “Innovation, Development and Globalization” and “Technology, Innovation and Sustainability” and a Harvard College undergraduate seminar on “Biotechnology, Environment and Public Policy”, among other courses in his time with us.
A Kenyan who grew up on the shores of Lake Victoria, Calestous initially taught elementary school and worked as a science and environment journalist in his native country. After earning a doctorate in science and technology policy studies from the University of Sussex, he founded and served as director of the first all-Africa research center focused on the application of science and technology to sustainable development. He was a principal drafter of the Kenyan intellectual property law. He served as Chancellor of the University of Guyana, member of the National Social and Economic Council of the President of Kenya, a key advisor on the interaction of technology, environment, and development in the preparations for the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development, and the Executive Secretary of the UN Conference on Biodiversity.
By the time he came to Harvard, Calestous had already published an even dozen books, including his pioneering 1989 study of the interaction of biodiversity, biotechnology, and development, The Gene Hunters. During his time here, another half dozen of his books appeared--most recently Innovation and Its Enemies: Why People Resist New Technologies--along with an enormous number of chapters in books edited by others, contributions to advisory-committee reports, and articles in both professional journals and popular media all over the globe. Many of us wondered how Calestous could write faster than most of us could read. Still, the work was not superficial, but packed with deep insights and provocative hypotheses. At the time of his death, Calestous was working on yet another book.
Despite the demands of teaching, research, and writing, moreover, Calestous was constantly in search of--and finding--opportunities to speak truth to power. Internationally, he served as an advisor on technology for development and on global environmental governance for the Office of the Secretary General in the UN, the UN Development Programme and the UN Conference on Trade and Development, and co-chaired the highly influential Task Force on Science, Technology and Innovation of the UN Millennium Goals project In the United States he was a key figure in the work on environment and development of the US National Research Council, serving there on the Board of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the Committee on Scientific Support for Sustainable Development, the Committee for Geographical Information and Agenda 21, and the Committee on Agricultural Biotechnology, Health, and the Environment.
Dr. Juma’s contributions were recognized with election as a fellow of the Kenyan Academy of Sciences, the African Academy of Sciences, and the World Academy of Sciences, as well as to foreign membership in the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society of London, and the U.K. Royal Society of Engineering. The list of his other honors and recognitions goes on for pages.
But for us, his close colleagues in BCSIA and its programs on Science and Technology Policy and Environment and Natural Resource Policy, what Calestous brought to our work together was not only a first-class mind, a deeply informed focus on some the most important issues at the intersection of science and technology with development and sustainability, an admirable commitment to teaching and advising, a mind-boggling work ethic, and his exceptional standing as a global public intellectual. He was also just a wonderful colleague--warm, ever upbeat and enthusiastic, always ready to consider seriously the views of others, always looking for ways to contribute to the Center, the School, and the world. We will miss him terribly.