We learned of the passing on 4 October 2020 of Léon Tabah in Boulogne-Billancourt, France at the age of 97. He joined the IUSSP in 1949 and held multiple positions. He chaired the IUSSP Committee on Economics and Demography between 1969 and 1974, editing the 1975 IUSSP 2 volume book on Growth and Economic Development in the Third World with Ordina Editions. He was also a member of the Committee on Interaction Between Demographic Variables and Income Distribution (1979-1984), and he served as an IUSSP Council Member from 1985 to 1989.
Léon Tabah and Frédéric, his twin brother, were born on 16 May 1923 in Istanbul. The family emigrated to France in 1926. He began his studies at the Faculty of Sciences of Lyon, and then at the Faculty of Law in Paris, but under the Occupation, he had to flee Paris. In 1941, he joined the MLN (National Liberation Movement) with his brother gathering intelligence for the Resistance. In 1944, he participated in the liberation of Lyon.
After WWII, he obtained a doctorate in economic and social science. In 1946, Alfred Sauvy recruited him to INED where he tackled an eclectic range of subjects but developed a dominant interest in the relationship between population and development in the Third World.
In 1957, he was recruited by the United Nations to teach at the Latin American Demographic Center (CELADE), in Santiago de Chile, where he participated in the training of a generation of young researchers and future demographers in Latin America.
He returned to INED in 1963 where he headed a research group on the demography of the Third World while teaching at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (EPHE), as well as at the Institute of Higher Studies of Latin America and the Institute of Political Studies in Paris (Sciences Po).
In 1972, he returned to the United Nations, becoming director of the Population Division in New York, a position he held until 1984. It was in this context that he was notably Deputy Secretary-General of the 1974 World Population Conference in Bucharest and the International Population Conference in Mexico City in 1984 when he retired.
Upon his return to Paris, the French government entrusted him with a mission to reflect on cooperation in the area of population, leading to the creation of CEPED (Center for the Study of Population and Development).
From 1990 to 1993, he was President of the International Committee for the Coordination of National Research in Demography (CICRED) while serving on the High Council for Population and Family (1990-1995).
In his preface to a special issue of Population devoted to the Maghreb published in 1971, Léon Tabah wrote: “Demographic studies […] must help clarify political choices”. This is arguably the best summary that one can make of his career.
Unparalleled chess player and avid bridge lover, Léon Tabah was a man appreciated and loved by all who knew him.
Léon Tabah was awarded the Médaille de la Resistance, and was Chevalier de l'Ordre National du Mérite, and Officer of the Legion d'Honneur.
Abridged translation of French text by Magda Tomasini, Director of the National Institute for Demographic Studies, INED