Laurence Hayek

Microbiologist and keeper of his Nobel laureate father's flame

Laurence Hayek was the son of F.A. Hayek, the leading free market economist and classic liberal philosopher, whose thinking was such a great influence on Margaret Thatcher. As well as acting as a representative for his father, he earlier achieved distinction in his own right as a microbiologist.

Laurence Hayek, microbiologist: born Vienna 15 July 1934; married 1961 Esca Drury (one son, two daughters); died Dartmouth, Devon 15 July 2004.

Laurence Hayek was the son of F.A. Hayek, the leading free market economist and classic liberal philosopher, whose thinking was such a great influence on Margaret Thatcher. As well as acting as a representative for his father, he earlier achieved distinction in his own right as a microbiologist.

He was born in Vienna in 1934 but grew up in Britain, where his father had been appointed Professor at the London School of Economics. During the Second World War, the LSE was despatched to Peterhouse, Cambridge, and Laurence, with the help of John Maynard Keynes, was found a place at King's College School. Despite their different views, Friedrich Hayek and Keynes were friends; they used to do fire-watch together on the roof of King's College.

Laurence Hayek continued his education at Westminster School and then returned to Cambridge to read Medicine at King's. He worked as a GP and became a hospital pathologist in Middlesex, before moving in 1974 with his wife and children to Devon. For 25 years, he was Consultant Microbiologist at Torbay Hospital. He was the hospital's first full-time microbiologist, especially concerned with cross-infection. He was a council member of the Association of Clinical Pathologists and a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Clinical Pathology.

Until his death in 1992 Friedrich Hayek regularly visited his son's family in Devon from his home in Leipzig. Laurence introduced him to the BBC series Yes Minister, and Friedrich would play chess with his grandchildren.

After Laurence retired in 1999 he became a sort of one-man travelling salesman for F.A. Hayek's life and work. He held an assortment of his father's medals, including the 1974 Nobel Prize, and manuscripts, including that of his seminal 1944 work The Road to Serfdom.

Much of his time was spent travelling across the world to gatherings of academics and students who were intellectual devotees of his father. Getting the Nobel Prize - made of gold and very heavy - through airport security proved a challenge in recent years. Even taking the memorabilia to London could cause a commotion: the Institute of Economic Affairs hired security guards to protect the valuable items when they were brought up for their scholars to admire.

But Laurence Hayek persisted with his touring. Just two weeks before his death, he visited the Hayek Institut in Vienna, meeting the Austrian finance minister and other dignitaries, for the publication of a German translation of the abridged Reader's Digest version of The Road to Serfdom.

Hayek appeared on platforms with the likes of Milton Friedman, Professor Ralf Dahrendorf and Nobel laureates including Gary Becker and James Buchanan. In November 1991, four months before Friedrich Hayek's death, Laurence had accepted the Presidential Medal of Freedom on behalf of his father from George Bush senior. In 1998 he provided a good deal of material for John Raybould's Hayek: a commemorative album.

Laurence Hayek spent much time bell-ringing with his wife, Esca, in their local church in Dartmouth and elsewhere.

Harry Phibbs



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