Lawrence Henry Summers is an American economist. He was born in New Haven, Connecticut, on November 30, 1954, and spent most of his childhood in the Penn Valley, Pennsylvania, suburb of Philadelphia. He received a bachelor of science degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1975 and was awarded a Ph.D. from Harvard in 1982.
Summers was named assistant professor to the economics faculty at MIT in 1979 and associate professor in 1982. He then went to Washington as a domestic policy economist for the President’s Council of Economic Advisers. In 1983, he returned to Harvard as a professor of economics. In 1987, he was named Nathaniel Ropes Professor of Political Economy and became the first social scientist ever to receive the annual Alan T. Waterman Award of the National Science Foundation (NSF), established by Congress to honor an exceptional young U.S. scientist or engineer whose work demonstrates originality, innovation, and a significant impact within one’s field. In 1993, Summers was awarded the John Bates Clark Medal, given every two years to the outstanding American economist under the age of 40.
In 1991, Summers took leave from Harvard to return to Washington, this time as vice president of development economics and chief economist of the World Bank. In 1993, he was named as the nation’s Undersecretary of the Treasury for International Affairs. In 1995, then Secretary Robert E. Rubin AB '60 promoted Summers to the department’s number-two post, Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, in which he played a central role in a broad array of economic, financial, and tax matters, both international and domestic.
On July 2, 1999, the United States Senate confirmed Summers as Secretary of the Treasury. He left the post in January 2001 to serve as the Arthur Okun Distinguished Fellow in Economics, Globalization, and Governance at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
On July 1, 2001, Summers took office as the 27th president of Harvard University and served until June 30, 2006. After a one year sabbatical, Summers accepted the University's invitation to serve as the Charles W. Eliot University Professor, one of twenty select University-wide professorships, with offices in the Kennedy School of Government and the Harvard Business School.
Summers was appointed as Director of the National Economic Council by President Barack Obama in January 2009. It was announced in September 2010 that he would leave his post to return to Harvard. Gene Sperling was appointed to replace him in early January 2011.
Summers and his wife Elisa New, a professor of English at Harvard, reside in Brookline, Massachusetts, with their six children.