10 Things You Didn’t Know About Lawrence ‘Larry’ Summers

President-elect Barack Obama named Summers head of the National Economic Council.

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1. Lawrence Henry Summers was born on Nov. 30, 1954, in New Haven, Conn. He is the oldest of three sons born to economics professors Robert and Anita Summers, who were teaching at Yale when he was born.

2. Summers's extended family also includes other very distinguished economists—he has two uncles who have been awarded the Nobel Prize in economics. Paul Samuelson of MIT is his father's brother (the older Summers changed his name as a young man), and Stanford economist Kenneth Arrow is his uncle on his mother's side.

3. Summers left high school after his junior year to study at MIT. (He had applied to Harvard as well but was rejected.) He intended to study math, but changed his field to economics after he found that he enjoyed analyzing real-world problems. He also excelled on the debate team. Summers graduated in 1975.

4. After earning an economics Ph.D. from Harvard in 1982, Summers took a job in Washington, working for a year on the staff of the Council of Economic Advisers.

5. Summers became a tenured professor of economics at Harvard in 1983, making him, at age 28, one of the youngest professors in the school's history to reach that status. The same year, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease, which was successfully treated with months of chemotherapy.

6. Summers became chief economist for the World Bank in 1991. In that post, he was criticized when a memo he had signed said that developing nations were "underpolluted."

7. In 1993, he was appointed under secretary for international affairs at the Treasury Department. That year, Summers received the prestigious John Bates Clark Award, given to the best American economist under 40.

8. After Robert Rubin's departure in 1999, Summers became treasury secretary, serving through the final year of the Clinton administration.

9. Summers became president of Harvard University in 2001.

10. Summers is married to Elisa New, a professor of English at Harvard. He has a son and twin daughters from a previous marriage.

Sources:

  • Boston Globe
  • Boston Magazine
  • Business Week
  • Chronicle of Higher Education
  • New York Times
  • USA Today
  • Washington Post