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Lauwerys, Joseph Albertlocked


Lauwerys, Joseph Albert (1902–1981), educationist, was born in Brussels on 7 November 1902, the eldest child in the family of two sons and two daughters of Henry Lauwerys, a tailor, and his wife, Louise Nagels. The family were mainly French speaking. In 1914 they fled to England just before the German occupation, establishing themselves there permanently. Lauwerys spent a year at Ratcliffe College, Leicestershire, and then completed his schooling at Bournemouth, where the family eventually settled. He left school early, and worked in a number of jobs, mainly as a shop assistant. Through the co-operative movement he was encouraged to pursue his education part-time and in 1927 obtained a first-class London University BSc general degree, from King's College. This was followed in successive years by honours degrees in chemistry and physics. He taught for a while in Stirling House, a private school in Bournemouth, but in 1928, upon the recommendation of T. Percy Nunn, of the London University Institute of Education, he became physics master at Christ's Hospital, Horsham. He was naturalized in 1928, and married in 1932 Waltraut Dorothy, from Germany, daughter of Hermann Bauermeister, publisher. They had three sons.

In 1932 Lauwerys was appointed lecturer in the methods of teaching science in schools at London University Institute of Education. During this period he wrote many science textbooks and works on scientific method and science teaching, as well as programmes for schools broadcasting. In 1946 Ghent University awarded him a doctorate for a thesis on film and radio as educational media. His interest in science teaching was lifelong.

However, the Second World War stimulated Lauwerys's different growing concern, education in other countries. In 1941 he had become reader in comparative education, and during the war led an inquiry initiated by the committee of allied ministers of education that met in London under R. A. Butler to plan educational reconstruction after the conflict. Promoted in 1947 to be the first professor of comparative education at London University Institute of Education, his work as adviser for UNESCO gave him further insights into how education might become an instrument for promoting peace and international understanding.

Lauwerys also saw his professional role as one of establishing comparative studies in education more firmly as a legitimate field of enquiry. In this, through his writings, his indefatigable development of international contacts, and his own teaching, he was eminently successful. Although he wrote no single major work his contribution as senior editor of the World Year Book of Education from 1947 to 1970 was invaluable. The thematic and global approach adopted in these twenty-four volumes which, for example, made more widely known such topics as economics and education (1956) and educational planning (1967), was highly innovative and acted as a catalyst for further research. His own numerous articles and monographs were equally influential. He was himself visiting professor at many universities ranging from the Americas to the Far East. He made the London Institute into the major graduate centre for comparative studies, particularly by his own charismatic lecturing. A polyglot, Lauwerys was a lively conversationalist and tenacious debater, communicating in his many varied activities an unbounded enthusiasm and zest for life.

Responsibilities and honours were showered upon Lauwerys. Thus he was the British representative on the UNESCO conciliation and good offices commission dealing with discrimination in education. With Lord Boyle of Handsworth he co-chaired the education committee of the parliamentary group for world government. He was active in such organizations as the Council for Christians and Jews, the International New Education Fellowship, the International Montessori Association, and the Basic English movement. He saw the possibilities of using Basic English as a lingua franca for education in the ‘third world’. Professeur associé at the Sorbonne from 1969 to 1971, he had been made a commander of the ordre des Palmes Académiques in 1961. His own university had conferred a DLitt upon him in 1958, and he was made a fellow of King's College, London.

Lauwerys retired from London University in 1970, but until 1976 was director of the Atlantic Institute of Education, Halifax, Nova Scotia. In his latter years both his Catholic upbringing and his scientific background, as well as a natural philosophical bent, led him to interest himself in Japanese efforts to establish a ‘universal moral science’, or ‘moralogy’, and in 1976 he published Science, Morals and Moralogy. He died at Guildford, Surrey, on 29 June 1981.


  • M. McLean, ed., ‘Joseph A. Lauwerys, a Festschrift’, London Institute of Education Library Bulletin, supplement 22 (1981)
  • V. Mallinson, ‘Emeritus Professor J. A. Lauwerys (1902–1981)’, Comparative Education, 17/3 (1981)
  • H. van Daele, ‘Joseph Lauwerys (1902–1981) en de vergelijkende pedagogiek’, Persoon en Gemeenschap, 24/6 (1981–2)
  • personal knowledge (2004)
  • private information (1990)


  • U. Lond., Institute of Education, corresp. and papers

Wealth at Death

£109,722: probate, 15 Dec 1981, CGPLA Eng. & Wales

Calendars of the grants of probate … made in … HM court of probate [England and Wales]