William A. Orton Papers
William Aylott Orton was born on February 9, 1889 in Bromley, Kent, England. He graduated with honors from Christ's College, Cambridge University in 1919 and received his M.Sc. degree in Economics from the University of London for a thesis entitled "British Industrial History Since 1914," a work which was published that same year in London under the title of "Labour in Transition." He received his M.A. from Cambridge in 1922, the degree of Doctor of Science from the University of London in 1946, the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from Boston University in 1947, and the degree of Doctor of Letters from Georgetown University in 1951.
Orton also served as a lieutenant in the British army in Gallipoli, Egypt and France from 1914 to 1917, and was then connected with the intelligence staff of the War Office in London until 1919. A staff officer in the industrial relations department of the Ministry of Labor from 1919 to 1922, Orton also lectured to the London County Council and the University of London during these years.
Orton joined the Smith College faculty in 1922, and during this time he also taught summer sessions at Bryn Mawr College and at the University of California, and served as a visiting professor at Amherst and Williams Colleges. Throughout his teaching career, he brought to his students a broader concept of the meaning of economics, a historical perspective, a philosophical insight, and a scholarly regard for the wider significance of current problems.
Orton wrote on almost every conceivable topic, and was actively interested in moving pictures as a form of art. He is well-known for his books, Prelude to Economics (1932), America in Search of Culture (1933), The Last Romantic (1937), Twenty Years' Armistice (1938), and The Liberal Tradition (1945). A frequent contributor to the Atlantic Monthly, the American Mercury, the American Economic Review, Harper's, and the New Republic, Orton also wrote the entry on "Liberalism" for the Encyclopedia Britannica. He was well known as a speaker throughout the East. In 1948, Orton gave the Walgreen Foundation lecture at the University of Chicago, and in 1949, he was appointed a trustee of the University of Massachusetts. He was also a member of the American Economics Association and the American Academy of Political Science.
Orton died on August 13, 1952 following a heart attack, ending a 30 year career on the Smith College faculty.