Robert M. Solow papers, 1951-2011

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Solow, Robert M.
Robert Solow (1924-2023) was a Nobel Prize winner and Emeritus Institute Professor (of economics) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This collection documents his professional life through his correspondence, writings, teaching, and professional activities. It forms parts of the Economists' Papers Archive.
63.1 Linear Feet (111 boxes.)
Material in English.
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

This collection documents Solow's professional, scholarly, and academic work. The majority of the collection consists of voluminous files of correspondence with students, colleagues, and other economists, and it includes his reviews of papers by other scholars, referee reports, letters of recommendation articles for the public, professional correspondence as well as policy recommendations. The papers also contain lecture notes for courses Solow taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; published papers by Solow on macroeconomics, growth theory, linear programming, and other topics; and files from economic, academic, and governmental organizations in which he served, including the American Economics Association, the National Bureau of Economic Research, and the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University. The Writings series also contains notes and rough drafts on topics such as econometrics, employment (specifically the theory of unemployment) and growth policies, macroeconomics, and the theory of capital. There is also some material on the Neoclassical Growth Model, also known as the Solow-Swan Growth Model (1956).

The largest series in the collection, the Correspondence series is subdivided into three subseries: Chronological Correspondence, Alphabetical Correspondence, and Recommendations. The first two consist of correspondence from students, colleagues, and collaborators, with some responses from Solow included. The exchanges include economists such as Kenneth Arrow, Olivier Blanchard, Alan Blinder, Partha Dasgupta, Frank Hahn, Paul Samuelson, and James Tobin. The Alphabetical Correspondence is similar in content to the Chronological Correspondence but smaller in size; it also contains more pieces related to organizations and businesses. Recommendations is the smallest of the three and consists of requests for and the subsequent letters of recommendation from Solow for either students or professional economists.

The Teaching series houses the teaching material generated from Solow's MIT economics courses (spanning approximately 30 years of his 40-year MIT career) as well as the notes and material used for lectures given at other forums and institutions. This material consists of reading lists, syllabi, outlines, exams, problem sets and their solutions, homework, waivers, attendance rosters, assignments, spiral notebooks of economic equations, and personal preparatory notes handwritten by Solow.

Nearly all of Solow's major publications and co-publications (see bibliography for the few exceptions) are found in the Writings series. These include his PhD dissertation, speeches, lectures, invited lectures, panel discussions, op-ed pieces, journal articles, brochures, pamphlets, reviews of his works and his responses to the reviews, Congressional testimony, and memorial tributes, as well as the rough drafts and notes for these documents.

The Professional Service series includes varied documents associated with the groups Robert Solow was either a member of, held a position in, wrote pieces for, or supported. Files contain correspondence, meeting minutes, proposals, reports, publications, votes, elections, and financial reports. The largest files are for the American Economic Association and the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton.

Biographical / historical:

Robert Merton Solow was a white American academic economist born on 23 August 1924 in Brooklyn, New York to Milton Solow and Hannah Sarney. He enrolled at Harvard University (PhD, 1951) at age 16 to study botany/biology, but switched to social sciences before turning 18 and enlisting in the US Army. He served in North Africa and Italy during World War II before returning to the US in August 1945 and marrying Barbara Lewis (1923-2014), who suggested that he join her in studying economics (she became an economic historian herself). The couple had three children: John Lewis Solow, Andrew Robert Solow, and Katherine Solow.

Solow helped Wassily Leontief create the first input-output model of the US economy as his research assistant in 1945 before spending 1949-1950 on fellowship at Columbia University then the rest of his career at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1949-1995), where his office was next door to Paul Samuelson. While at MIT, he advised four future Nobel Laureates in the 1960s: Peter Diamond, Joseph E. Stiglitz, William D. Nordhaus and George A. Akerlof.

Solow's early work focused on statistics and econometrics, but he gradually shifted to employment and growth policies (specifically the theory of unemployment), macroeconomics, and the theory of capital. His later work was on targets of opportunity, modern macroeconomic theory (with Frank Hahn), and the social affects of economics (as a Foundation Fellow at the Russell Sage Foundation). He is perhaps best known for his work on the Neoclassical Growth Model, also known as the Solow-Swan Growth Model (1956), which earned him the 1987 Nobel Prize in economics.

Solow also held governmental positions, including Senior Economist (1961-1962) then Consultant (1962-1968) for the Council of Economic Advisors (1961-1962), member of the President's Commission on Income Maintenance (1968-1970), and member then Chair of the Board of Directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston (1975-1981). He served as president of the American Economics Association (1979) and Econometric Society (1964), and he was a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the British Academy, and a former member of the National Science Board. He was awarded the John Bates Clark Medal in 1961, the National Medal of Science in 1999, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2014.

Solow died on 23 December 2023 in Lexington, Massachusetts.

Acquisition information:
The Robert M. Solow papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library as gifts from Janice Murray and Robert Solow between 2007-2013.
Processing information:

Processed by Angela Bleggi and John Mayrose, April 2008 and Meghan Lyon and Carrie Mills, June 2011.

Encoded by Angela B. Bleggi and John Mayrose, April 2008.

Accessions described in this collection guide: 2007-0110, 2008-0274, 2011-0028, 2011-0071, and 2013-0191.

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Describing Archives: A Content Standard


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Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], Robert M. Solow papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Duke University.