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Tucker, Graham Shardalow Lee (1924–1980)

by Marjorie Harper

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

Graham Shardalow Lee Tucker (1924-1980), economic historian, was born on 19 August 1924 at Moonee Ponds, Melbourne, second child of Victorian-born parents Charles Victor Lee Tucker, bank manager, and his wife Vera Winifred, née Simpson. Educated at Trinity Grammar School, Kew, Graham began work as a clerk with the Vacuum Oil Co. Pty Ltd. He enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force on 27 August 1942 and served as a radio operator at bases in Australia. Commissioned in January 1944 as a radio operator, aircrew, he was posted to No.1 Aircraft Depot, Laverton, Victoria, and took part in test flights. His R.A.A.F. appointment was terminated on medical grounds on 19 May 1945.

In 1946 Tucker entered the University of Melbourne (B.Com. Hons, 1950) under the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme. At Christ Church, Hawthorn, on 7 February 1948 he married with Anglican rites Lois Flora Monger, a stenographer. Graduating with first-class honours, he was keen to become an academic. In 1950 he was appointed senior tutor in the university's department of economic history.

Encouraged by Professor John La Nauze to pursue his interest in the history of economic thought, Tucker proceeded to Christ's College, Cambridge (Ph.D., 1954). His supervisor was Piero Sraffa, who was then editing the works and correspondence of David Ricardo. Tucker examined the theories of pre-classical and classical economists. His close study of the literature from a quasi-Keynesian viewpoint yielded new insights, particularly on the debates between Ricardo and Thomas Malthus on aggregate demand. Awarded (1955) the Ellen McArthur prize, his thesis was later published as Progress and Profits in British Economic Thought, 1650-1850 (Cambridge, 1960).

Tucker returned to the University of Melbourne in 1954. He became lecturer (1954), senior lecturer (1956) and reader (1959) in economic history. In January 1961 he was appointed to the chair of economic history in the School of General Studies, Australian National University, Canberra. Although he carried a heavy administrative load, he built a reputation as a committed teacher and meticulous scholar. Further study of classical theories—particularly on the long-term relationships between land use, capital accumulation and trends in profits, wages and population growth—led him to demographic history. His article 'English Pre-Industrial Population Trends' (Economic History Review, 1963) increased scholarly understanding of the effects of industrialization on population growth. A collaborative monograph with Colin Forster, Economic Opportunity and White American Fertility Ratios, 1800-1860 (New Haven, 1972), defended, refined and extended Yasukichi Yasuba's proposition that the availability of land was a major determinant of fertility. Tucker was particularly pleased to identify the British politician William Huskisson as the author of the well-known, but anonymously published, Essays on Political Economy (London, 1830).

Tall and lean, with aquiline features, Tucker was an unassuming and fastidious man with a dry sense of humour. Trout-fishing was his favourite recreation. He became withdrawn as his health slowly deteriorated. Following surgery for the removal of a non-malignant brain tumour, he died of a cerebral haemorrhage on 29 May 1980 in Royal Canberra Hospital and was cremated. His wife and their daughter survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • Economic Journal, vol 72, no 286, June 1962, p 374
  • Australian National University Reporter, 13 June 1980
  • Economic Record, vol 56, no 154, Sept 1980, p 278
  • Australian Economic History Review, vol 21, no 1, Sept 1981, p 1.

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Citation details

Marjorie Harper, 'Tucker, Graham Shardalow Lee (1924–1980)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/tucker-graham-shardalow-lee-977/text21287, published in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 2 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

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