Polsby, Nelson W. 1934-2007 (Arthur Clun, Nelson Woolf Polsby)

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Polsby, Nelson W. 1934-2007 (Arthur Clun, Nelson Woolf Polsby)


See index for CA sketch: Born October 25, 1934, in Norwich, CT; died of complications from congestive heart failure, February 6, 2007, in Berkeley, CA. Political scientist, educator, and author. A professor of political science at the University of California at Berkeley, Polsby was noted for his research on presidential elections, federal policy making, and the relationship between the U.S. president and Congress. Growing up in Connecticut and Maryland near the capital, he was interested in politics at an early age. In particular, he became fascinated by Senator Joseph P. McCarthy and his perceived political power. This led to his conducting his own research on statistics and public opinion polls even before college. Polsby did his undergraduate work at Johns Hopkins University, then completed his master's and doctorate at Yale in 1958 and 1961, respectively. He taught briefly at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, then was on the faculty at Wesleyan University from 1961 until 1968. Polsby moved to Berkeley in 1967, where he was still teaching at the time of his death. As a scholar, he was interested in comparative politics and the evolution of politics and federal policy. For example, he studied how the American South changed from a Democratic to a Republican stronghold and he wrote a book, British Government and its Discontents (1981), comparing British and American systems. Among his other important works are Presidential Elections (1964; 11th edition, 2004), Consequences of Party Reform (1983), The Federalist Papers: Essays in Defense of the Constitution (1997), and How Congress Evolves (2004). During the 1970s, Polsby was the managing editor of the influential American Political Science Review, and he edited the Annual Review of Political Science from 1998 to 2005. At Berkeley he served as director of the Institute of Governmental Studies from 1988 until 1999. Outside of his interest in politics, Polsby was a lover of mystery novels and considered himself an expert on the fictional sleuth Nero Wolfe.



Chicago Tribune, February 8, 2007, Section 3, p. 9.

New York Times, February 9, 2007, p. A19.

Times (London, England), February 8, 2007, p. 67.

Washington Post, February 8, 2007, p. B6.