Ronald Brech: Economist with a passion for his field

 

The career of Professor Ronald Brech was full of variety, but throughout it all his passion for economics – as well as life in general – remained undiminished.

A chairman of the Institute of Statisticians and someone who enjoyed great success in industry and the media, he also worked into his late 80s on teaching others about business and economics through video games.

Born in London in 1915 to an Austrian father – who, because of his nationality, was interned during the First World War – and Bavarian mother, Brech studied at the London School of Economics before work on his PhD was interrupted by the start of the Second World War. His time in the army was distinguished, and he was awarded the prestigious Belt of Honour while at Sandhurst as the best candidate in his class of prospective officers.

A member of the Royal Tank Regiment, he was later seconded into military intelligence. With his unit attached to the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force, his roles included liaising between Field Marshal Montgomery and Supreme Allied Commander Dwight Eisenhower, who, it is fair to say, were not the best of friends.

After the end of the war Brech was closely involved in the Allied's attempts to learn from the conflict, chairing an Anglo-American committee whose brief was examining the German war economy to find out why Germany had not won the war in 1941, and was then defeated. As well as serving on other government committees, he moved into the world of media, becoming assistant editor at The Economist between 1947 and 1952.

Another switch in his career saw him enter industry to head the economics and statistics department of Unilever. He produced for the consumer goods giant a report entitled Britain 1984, an innovative 25-year forecast for the British economy. A thorough, readable look into what the future could be like, it foresaw among other trends the shift towards luxury foods, drinks and consumer goods.

After leaving Unilever in the mid-1960s, Brech was involved in his first major attempt at portraying the worlds of business and economics for a wider audience. Running for 26 programmes on the new channel BBC2, The Fothergale Series, written and presented by Brech, followed the fortunes of the eponymous fictional company which had struck upon the ingenious idea of making disposable, one-wear shirts; each episode analysed the company's attempts to tackle a different business problem.

Around the same time he became Chairman of the Institute of Statisticians, having been Honorary Secretary for a number of years. The organisation later joined forces with the Royal Statistical Society.

An active Roman Catholic throughout his life, he was also in the early 1960s chairman of the Catholic international overseas development charity Progressio, then known as The Sword of the Spirit, and it was during his time that the charity was involved in setting up Cafod.

When running his own consultancy, which advised a number of major companies, Brech worked to get them to use such techniques as economic forecasting and risk analysis in their long-term planning. He was also an advocate of the value of integrity in management and the need for businesses to be thinking about their contribution to the social good.

In the 1980s, despite reaching an age when most are thinking of retirement, Brech threw himself into the emerging world of computing games. Hiring software developers, he created a number of educational titles for companies, universities and school students. Among them was Beat The Boss, a business simulation which at one point held 40 per cent of the schools market. Created around the game was a cross-country competition "The Young Business People of the Year", sponsored by Argos, in which hundreds of schools took part.

His work on computer games, which continued into the 2000s, was just one example of his long-lasting passion for life and new challenges. He was also a keen and adventurous traveller with his wife Margaret (better known as Peggy) and their five children, while at the age of 95, albeit with the help of a mobility scooter and cable car, he made it to the top of the Zugspitze, Germany's tallest mountain, which he had climbed as a teenager. He took great pleasure in having such a large family; his children gave him 19 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.

Professor Ronald Brech, economist: born London 22 September 1915; married 1943 Margaret Barlow (five children); died London 23 August 2012.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
footballHe started just four months ago
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect