Frederic Pryor

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Frederic L. Pryor (born 1933) is an American economist. He is known for his role during his student years in a noted Cold War "spy swap" subsequent to the 1960 U-2 incident. He has taught or researched Economics at Yale University, the University of California, the University of Michigan, the University of Paris, the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva, and several other universities. He joined the Swarthmore College faculty in 1967.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Pryor attended Oberlin College, where he received a bachelor's degree in Chemistry in 1955. He studied Economics at Yale University, where he received a master's degree in 1957, then undertook a doctorate program.

Cold War incident[edit]

In 1959, as part of his doctorate studies, Pryor began taking graduate courses in East European studies at the Free University of West Berlin. In August 1961, days after the Berlin Wall was erected, he visited East Berlin to deliver a copy of his dissertation to a professor there, and to contact a friend's sister, who – unknown to Pryor – had just illegally fled to West Germany. The East German police found his visit and the subject of his paper suspicious, and he was arrested and held without charge, experiencing daily interrogation.[2]

On February 10, 1962, Pryor was freed at Checkpoint Charlie, just before American U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers was swapped for Soviet KGB Colonel William Heinrikhovich Fisher at the Glienicke Bridge between West Berlin and Potsdam, East Germany,[3][4] as a result of negotiations conducted by James B. Donovan.

Pryor's involvement in this incident is dramatized as a subplot in the 2015 film Bridge of Spies starring Tom Hanks as Donovan, with Pryor portrayed by actor Will Rogers. He was not consulted for the film, about which he commented, "It was good. But they took a lot of liberties with it."[2]


Pryor received his doctorate from Yale in 1962, but his purported involvement in espionage and his imprisonment limited his job opportunities in government or industry.[2]

He worked as an economic advisor in Ukraine and Latvia, was employed as a consultant to the World Bank in Africa, served as a Research Director to the Pennsylvania Tax Commission, and has been a Research Associate at both the Hoover Institution in Palo Alto, Calif., and the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.

He has won research grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Council of Soviet and East European Studies, and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.


  1. ^ Fredrick Pryor,, access date 9 March 2016
  2. ^ a b c Economist Frederic Pryor Recounts Life as a 'Spy',, access date 30 December 2015
  3. ^ "Abel for Powers". TIME. February 16, 1962. Retrieved 2008-07-03.
  4. ^ Wicker, Tom (10 February 1962). "Powers is Freed by Soviet in an Exchange for Abel; U-2 Pilot on Way to U.S." The New York Times. Retrieved 17 October 2015.

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