Nelson W. Polsby

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Nelson Woolf Polsby (October 25, 1934 – February 6, 2007) was an American political scientist. He specialized in the study of the United States presidency and United States Congress. He was a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and former editor of the American Political Science Review from 1971–77.

Polsby was born in Norwich, Connecticut, and grew up in the state. He earned his undergraduate degree from Johns Hopkins University. He earned a master's and a doctoral degree from Yale University. He also earned a master's degree from Brown University and was awarded an Honorary master's degree from Oxford University. He taught at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and Wesleyan University before moving to Berkeley in 1967; from 1988 to 1999, he was director of Berkeley's Institute of Governmental Studies. Polsby was the author of numerous articles on American politics and 15 books, including "Political Innovation in America" (1984), "Congress and the Presidency" (1986), and "How Congress Evolves" (2004). He was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

He died February 6, 2007, in Berkeley, California, from heart disease.


  • Consequences of Party Reform. Berkeley: Institute of Governmental Studies Press. 1983.
  • Political Innovation in America. 1984.
  • Congress and the Presidency. 1986.
  • New Federalist Papers: Essays in Defense of the Constitution, with Alan Brinkley and Kathleen M. Sullivan. New York: W. W. Norton & Co. 1997.

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