Professor of Government Eric M. Nelson ’99 has authored three books, speaks three languages, and reads five languages—all at the tender age of 32. To top it all off, the University has appointed Nelson, a political theorist, full professor in the government department.
Nelson's scholarly journey has taken him deep into the academic thickets of the history of political thought in early-modern Europe and America, his primary area of study. He is schooled in Thomas Hobbes' philosophy and edited Hobbes' translation of the Iliad and the Odyssey.
“I am incredibly humbled by the confidence of my colleagues and very excited by the prospect of a career at Harvard," Nelson said.
Nelson's undergraduate years at Harvard were marked by academic fervor. The history concentrator won a Hoopes prize for his thesis, entitled "The Reluctant Humanist: Thomas Hobbes and the Classical Historians," and graduated summa cum laude in 1999.
After winning a Marshall scholarship and earning his MPhil. and Ph.D. at Cambridge University, Nelson joined the Harvard faculty as an assistant professor in 2005. He became an associate professor in 2009, and received tenure only a year later.
His colleagues know Nelson not just for his impressive array of credentials, but the mind and persona that lie underneath.
“I admire his work greatly," Professor of Government Michael E. Rosen said of Nelson in an e-mail. "The way that it combines historical erudition with conceptual acuteness is really extraordinary and the amount that he has written at such a young age…is remarkable too.”
Nelson, who has taught numerous courses ranging in subject matter from the Jewish political tradition to the politics of music, said he plans to continue teaching undergraduate courses at the same level of intensity in the foreseeable future.
“He's a dedicated teacher who teaches in areas of the subject that might otherwise not get covered," Rosen said. "He is also a very public-spirited colleague and a very nice man. How could I not be happy?”
—Staff writer Derrick Asiedu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.