Hawtrey was born on 22 November 1879 in Langley, Middlesex, to George Proctor Hawtrey (a teacher at St. Michael's preparatory school, established by Ralph's grandfather) and Eda Strahan. He died at Cambridge on 21 March 1975. He studied at Eton and in 1898 went to Trinity College Cambridge, obtaining a first in mathematics in 1901. His only formal economic studies were in preparation for the civil service examinations. He entered the Civil Service in 1903 and, after a year in the Admiralty, he went to the Treasury. In 1919 he was appointed director of financial enquiries, a position he held until his retirement in 1947. Though his ability was recognized, he was kept at a certain distance from the process of policy formation. During this period he was a visiting professor at Harvard in 1928–9, and after his retirement he was Price Professor of International Economics at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London. At Cambridge he was one of the Apostles, influenced by G.E. Moore, and was associated with the Bloomsbury group, through whom he met his wife, the concert pianist Hortense Emilia Sophie d’Aranyi. On his death, he left behind two complete book manuscripts on ethics. He was awarded the CB in 1941, was knighted in 1956, and was elected a fellow of the British Academy.
From The Biographical Dictionary of British Economists in Oxford Reference.