Joseph Lauwerys was born in Brussels, Belgium on & November 1902 and came to England in 1914 where he remained for the rest of his life. He attended Ratcliffe College, Leicestershire, and after a period of school in Bournemouth he worked as a shop assistant. However, from his involvement in the co-operative movement, he decided to attend evening classes, studying in chemistry and physics at King's College London. He went on to become a secondary school teacher including an appointment at Christ's Hospital School. In 1932 he started lecturing in scientific method at the Institute of Education, University of London, becoming reader in Education in 1941, and Professor of Comparative Education in 1947.He held this position until 1970 when he took charge of the Atlantic Institute, Nova Scotia. 
In the period 1945-1947, he was particularly prominent in the establishment of UNESCO alongside a number of other international educational initiatives, including the World Education Fellowship. For many years he edited of The World Year Book of Education. He was an advocate of Basic English.
An archive of his papers is kept at the Institute of Education.
- W. D., Halls. "Lauwerys, Joseph Albert (1902–1981), educationist". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 12 July 2015.
- "DC/JL Papers of Joseph Albert Lauwerys". Institute of education. Retrieved 12 July 2015.