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Obituaries

Michael Young, 86; British Thinker

January 17, 2002|From Associated Press

Lord Michael Young, a leading influence on British social policy who coined a word with his satirical account of the ruling class, "The Rise of Meritocracy," has died at 86.<252>Young, who had cancer, died at his London home Monday, his family said. <252>The author of the Labor Party's manifesto for the general election of 1945, Young was a key architect of Britain's modern welfare state. A champion of citizens' rights, his formation of the Open University and the Consumers' Assn. in Britain became famous around the world. <252>"The Rise of Meritocracy," published in 1958, a bestseller in 12 countries, helped create broad support for a pluralistic society and introduced a new word into the English language. <252>Trained as a barrister, he became an educator, author, political activist and consumer advocate.<252> He was described by some colleagues as a "pyrotechnician" for his tendency to fire off ideas on a vast range of subjects but leave it to others to deal with the administration of the many institutions he founded. <252>Born in Manchester to a musician father and an artist mother, Young spent his early years in Australia before returning to England.<252> His education from the age of 14 at the progressive Dartington Hall School in Devon influenced his thinking throughout his life. <252>Leonard Elmhirst and his American wife, Dorothy, who had inherited part of the Whitney fortune, had set up the school as a center for education, agricultural development and rural industry.<252> Young became a trustee of the school in 1942 and published an account of the Elmhirsts' work in 1982. <252>One of his better-known projects, the Consumers' Assn., rose from research at Dartington. <252>The association's Which? magazine, a consumer publication that provided product testing and comparisons, was first published in 1956 and is still in print. <252>Young's idea of offering adult education courses on early morning television became the prototype for the Open University launched by Harold Wilson in 1964.<252> Young also started the National Extension College and the International Extension College for Third World students.

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