Born in 1904, Kurt Martin was one of the most distinguished development economists of his generation and is recognized worldwide as one of the pioneers of development theory. He joined ISS in 1969 as Professor in Development Economics and stayed until 1986. Kurt Martin died in September 1995, a few weeks before his 91st birthday. His last reader, Strategies of economic development: readings in the political economy of industrialization on the evolution of development economics theory, was published in 1991.
Kurt Martin made institutions a central feature of his work. He stressed their importance throughout the history of economic theory itself and also in the philosophical foundations of the subject. Nonetheless, he felt that economic institutions were the result of historically embedded processes of social conflict rather than simply a solution to problems of transaction costs and collective actions and dilemmas.
The Institute of Social Studies awarded its honorary doctorate to Kurt Martin in 1979.