John Kenneth Galbraith, Longtime Economics Professor, Dies at 97

Former ambassador to India served on Harvard's faculty for more than three decades

Longtime Harvard professor John Kenneth Galbraith, a prominent liberal economist who was a popular instructor here for more than three decades, has died at age 97.

He had been admitted to Mount Auburn Hospital nearly two weeks ago, and he died there of natural causes at 9:15 p.m. on Saturday night, according to his son, Alan Galbraith.

The Ontario-born Galbraith taught at Harvard from 1934 to 1939, and then returned to the school in 1948.

He advised five Democratic presidents—Franklin D. Roosevelt, Class of 1904, John F. Kennedy ’40, Lyndon B. Johnson, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton. Kennedy named him ambassador to India in 1961.

He returned to Harvard in 1963. He drew hundreds of students to his course on “The Modern Industrial Society.”

He was an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War. At the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, he urged antiwar protesters not to commit acts of violence against members of the National Guard. "Just remember, they're draft dodgers just like you are," he recalled saying.

Galbraith retired from Harvard in 1975. The following year, the Harvard Lampoon awarded Galbraith the “Funniest Professor of the Century Award” and a $12,000 Cadillac Eldorado convertible, The Crimson reported at the time.

In addition to his work in his academic discipline, Galbraith also wrote several novels. He told The Crimson in 1989 that he preferred composing fiction over writing economic studies.

He received the Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, from President Clinton in 2002.

Biographical sketch of Galbraith on the Economics Department website.
Videos of Galbraith at Harvard's Institute of Politics.

-Material from the Associated Press was used in the reporting of this story.