A Nigerian demographer reflects on Jack Caldwell’s legacy

Monday 8 December 2014
Jack Caldwell

Prof Orubuloye’s testimony about Jack Caldwell’s legacy echoes other colleagues’ experience of being taken into Jack and his wife’s circle for life.   He describes a collaborated that spread from Ibadan, Nigeria to Canberra and back again and about Jack’s impact on three generations of Nigerian demographers.

That tradition is continuing through The John C Caldwell Population, Health and Development Fellowship for African Researchers supported by the Endowment Fund in his name.

Tunji Orubuloye writes:

I first met Jack and Pat at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria in 1973, when Jack was a visiting Professor in the Department of Sociology and I was a master's student. I already knew him from his book The Population of Tropical Africa. Soon I was working with him, Pat and later Helen Ware on the Changing African Project. During the summer vacation of 1973/74 we travelled together to cities, towns, villages and hamlets  in the southwest  of Nigeria interviewing the poor and the rich, the old and the young, male and female. He taught me demographic analysis at Ibadan and co-supervised my M.SC. Thesis on the impact of public health services on mortality in two rural areas of southwest Nigeria. The findings were later jointly published by Jack and me in Population Studies in 1975.

Jack facilitated my admission to the Department of Demography at the ANU and supervised my PH.D Program. Before I left Nigeria, Jack and Pat travelled with me to my town, a distance of 250 kilometres to Ibadan to meet my parents. My wife and I arrived in Canberra on 10th of July 1975. Jack and Pat received us at Canberra airport with two winter coats and drove us to our first abode in Canberra. They opened the doors of their home and office to all the students during the period of my stay and subsequent visits to Canberra. This hospitality was also extended to my children who later came to study in Canberra.

In the late 1980s we started investigating the behavioural context of HIV/AIDS in Africa and the health transition in Nigeria. The HIV/AIDS research was funded by SIDA/SAREC while the Health Transition project was funded by Rockefeller. Jack scoured for funds and I coordinated the two projects. The projects impacted positively on many of us young demographers across Africa and Nigeria in particular. The publications, seminars and workshops arising from these research projects dominated demographic discussions globally and in Africa for more than a decade.

The legacy of Jack cannot easily be quantified. I belong to the second generation of African demographers trained by Jack. We have together trained and continue to train dozens of young demographers who are in the field propagating the legacy of a man who devoted his entire academic life to the causes of knowledge and human development. To describe Jack as a hardworking person is an understatement, for him work is an addiction and a way of life.

To me and many of his followers, Jack is the world's number one demographer, a humanist per excellence, modest about his accomplishments, a pragmatist, unrelentingly persistent and an embodiment of humility.

  • Israel Olatunji Orubuloye
  • Professor of Sociology
  • Afe Babalola University
  • Download the booklet with other reflections on Prof Caldwell’s  intellectual and personal legacy here.
  • Follow the link to donate to the John C Caldwell Endowment Fund.

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