The University of Illinois

The Lemann Institute for Brazilian Studies

The Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies

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Photo: Ryan Fang/The Daily Illini

Werner Baer (1931-2016)

We mourn the loss of our friend, mentor, and colleague, Professor Werner Baer.

It is hard to overstate the contributions Werner made to Brazilian Studies, the field of Economics, and to the University of Illinois.  His passing is a moment to reflect on the many ways in which his brilliance, his boundless energy, and his commitment to his students and colleagues have reached all of us.

Werner Baer joined the faculty at the University of Illinois in 1974.  A specialist in Brazilian developmental economics trained at Harvard University, he devoted his scholarship to understanding the challenges of industrialization, infrastructure and public policy in the development process.  His books The Development of the Brazilian Steel Industry (1970) and Industrialization and Economic Development in Brazil (1965) shaped the field, while his The Brazilian Economy: It’s Growth and Development, now in its sixth edition and published in English, Portuguese and other languages, has long been the most widely read text on Brazil’s economy.  

Baer was a critical interlocutor on Brazil’s economy, but he was even more a gifted and committed mentor who trained generations of students.  The lifelong ties he sustained with those whom he trained has helped make the University of Illinois a unique center for studies of Brazil.  Through his life-long friendship with Jorge Paulo Lemann, the Lemann Institute for Brazilian Studies was endowed here in 2009.  The hive of activity among students, visiting scholars and faculty around the programs of the Lemann Institute bears the imprint of Werner’s passion for the study of Brazil, and the generosity of spirit he bore as a teacher and mentor.

He was currently at work on a study of the manners in which key institutions worked within Brazil’s specific context, editing a new book, Institutional Case Studies of Brazil’s Economy. When he recently wrote about this collaboration with colleagues at Illinois and in Brazil, he described the volume with words we might also use to describe him: “the volume as a whole tells us about Brazil.”