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Harvard's Jeffrey Sachs, One of the World's Leading Economists, Will Head Columbia Earth Institute

By Virgil Renzulli

Jeffrey Sachs

Harvard University Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs has been named director of the Columbia University Earth Institute, effective July 1, 2002. Sachs, who serves as an economic advisor to governments in Latin America, Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, Asia and Africa as well as to the United Nations, is widely considered one of the most important economists in the world.

Sachs will become professor of economics, international and public affairs, and health policy and management at Columbia with appointments in three of the University's schools: Arts and Sciences, the School of International and Public Affairs, and the Mailman School of Public Health. His Public Health projects will include working with programs to investigate the causes and health effects of toxic levels of arsenic in the well water in areas of Bangladesh and with the school's international HIV/AIDS initiatives.

His appointment was made jointly by Columbia President George Rupp, who will leave office in June, and his successor, President-elect Lee C. Bollinger. Sachs will report to Columbia Provost Jonathan R. Cole on the operations of the Institute as an academic research and teaching unit and to the University's president on matters pertaining to the development of the Institute's global agenda.

"Jeffrey Sachs is a major public intellectual, in the best sense," said Bollinger. "He brings scholarly erudition and insight to the most serious and fundamental issues of our time -- the organization of market economies in newly developing democracies; the methods of dealing with countries that are under threat of having their economies dissolve into bankruptcy; and the critical importance of focusing on the interrelationships of economic structures with, for example, disease and climate.

"This is really the essence of the undertaking of the Earth Institute at Columbia. I am thrilled to be able to work with Jeff Sachs to help make it even more of a reality. It is a worthy goal of a great university like Columbia."

Added Rupp, "I am delighted that Jeffrey Sachs, one of the world's most important international economists, has accepted our offer to head the Earth Institute. The global dimensions of his work are a great fit with Columbia's international character.

"He will provide extraordinary leadership for the Earth Institute, which has integrated the earth, life and social sciences in ways that no other institution has achieved. The Earth Institute provides an excellent vehicle for Jeff to pursue his goal of fostering economic growth in developing nations while also promoting human health and and preserving the natural environment."

"Jeffrey Sachs is the ideal person to lead the Earth Institute at Columbia. Indeed, he may be the ideal type of 21st century professor," said Jonathan R. Cole, Provost, Dean of Faculties and John Mitchell Mason Professor of the University. "While deeply knowledgeable in his own field of development economics, Jeffrey also knows the languages of the sciences, and the many other disciplines in public health and medicine -- enabling him to initiate collaborations that transcend narrow disciplinary lines and that produce important new knowledge that can help solve some of the most vexing problems that we face in today's world. His energy, his voice and his passion are felt and heard among leaders of nations. Jeff has many strings in his bow that will enable him to create an Earth Institute that will serve the world in our collective effort to eradicate poverty and disease and to gain a better understanding of how we can produce an environment that is truly sustainable."

Sachs said that the Earth Institute, with its component parts including the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Goddard Institute for Space Studies at Columbia University, and International Research Institute for Climate Prediction, in combination with his recent appointment as special advisor to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, seemed to be an excellent way in which he could advance his work in the most meaningful way.
He added that public health had become a passion of his and that he had learned that we can not meet the challenges of adequately dealing with AIDS and tropical diseases in isolation of the ecology and climate of areas where their impact is greatest.

At Harvard, Sachs is director of the Center for International Development and Galen L. Stone Professor of International Trade. He was appointed a special advisor to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan this winter. He is also a consultant on the UN's Millennium Development Goals, which is aimed at cutting worldwide poverty in half by 2015.

Sachs is former director of the Harvard Institute for International Development (HIID) and a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research. During 2000-2001, he was chairman of the Commission on Macroeconomics and Health of the World Health Organization, and, from September 1999 through March 2000, he served as a member of the International Financial Institutions Advisory Commission, which was established by the U.S. Congress.

He also serves as co-chairman of the Advisory Board of The Global Competitiveness Report, and has been a consultant to the IMF, the World Bank, the OECD and the United Nations Development Program.

During 1986-1990, Sachs was an advisor to the president of Bolivia, and in that capacity helped to design and implement a stabilization program that reduced Bolivia's inflation rate from 40,000 percent per year to the current rate of 10 percent per year.

From 1988 to 1990, Sachs also advised the governments of Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador and Venezuela on various aspects of financial reform.

In 1989, Sachs advised Poland's Solidarity movement on economic reforms, and at the request of the Solidarity leadership, prepared a draft program of radical economic transformation. After August 1989, he advised Poland's first post-communist government on the introduction of radical economic reforms in 1990 and 1991. In January 1999, he received the Commanders Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland, a high Polish national honor bestowed by the president of the Republic of Poland.

From the fall of 1991 through January 1994, Sachs led a team of economic advisors for Russian President Boris Yeltsin on issues of macroeconomic stabilization, privatization, market liberalization and international financial relations. He founded a non-governmental research unit, the Institute for Economic Analysis, in Moscow.
He advised the governments of Slovenia and Estonia on the introduction of new national currencies in 1991 and 1992, respectively, and in both cases, the successful monetary reform enabled these countries to end hyperinflation and reestablish monetary stability.

During 1991-93, he also advised the Mongolian government on macroeconomic reforms and privatization.

In 1990, Sachs met with Pope John Paul II as a member of a group of economists invited to confer with the Pontifical Council on Justice and Peace in advance of the Papal Encyclical Centesimus Annus. They met again in 1999 in Sachs' capacity as the Economic Advisor to the Jubilee 2000 movement.

In January 1998, Sachs was the first foreigner in the 43-year history of Japan's Liberal Democratic Party to be asked to deliver a keynote address at the LDP national convention.

Sachs' research interests include the links of health and development, economic geography, globalization, transition to market economies in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, international financial markets, international macroeconomic policy coordination, emerging markets, economic development and growth, global competitiveness and macroeconomic policies in developing and developed countries.

Sachs has published more than 100 scholarly articles, and has authored or edited many books. "Economics of Worldwide Stagflation," co-authored with Michael Bruno, was published in 1985, and his books "Global Linkages: Macroeconomic Interdependence and Cooperation in the World Economy," co-authored with Warwick McKibbin, and "Peru's Path to Recovery," co-authored with Carlos Paredes, were published by The Brookings Institution in 1991.

His textbook on "Macroeconomics in the Global Economy," co-authored with Felipe Larrain, was first published in 1993, and has been translated into German, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Japanese and Portuguese.

Sachs is the recipient of many awards and honors, including membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Harvard Society of Fellows and the Fellows of the World Econometric Society. He is a member of the Brookings Panel of Economists, the Board of Advisors of the Chinese Economists Society and several other organizations.

He received honorary degrees from St. Gallen University in Switzerland in 1990, the Universidad del Pacifico in Peru in 1997, Lingnan College of Hong Kong in 1998, Varna Economics University in Bulgaria and Iona College of New York in May 2000. Sachs has delivered the Lionel Robbins Memorial Lectures at the London School of Economics, the John Hicks Lectures at Oxford University, the David Horowitz Lectures in Tel Aviv, the Panglaykim Lectures in Jakarta, the Okun Lectures at Yale and many other distinguished lecture series.

In September 1991 he was honored with the Frank E. Seidman Award in Political Economy, and in June of 2000 he received the Bernhard Harms Prize in Kiel, Germany.

Sachs was born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1954. He received his B.A., summa cum laude, from Harvard College in 1976, and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1978 and 1980, respectively. He joined the Harvard faculty as an assistant professor in 1980, and was promoted to associate professor in 1982 and full professor in 1983.

The Columbia Earth Institute, a leader in earth systems teaching and research, is a federation of eight research and teaching centers: Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Goddard Institute for Space Studies at Columbia, Biosphere 2 Center, Center for Environmental Research and Conservation (CERC), Earth Engineering Center, International Research Institute for Climate Prediction (IRI),Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN), and Laboratory of Populations, which is a joint venture of Columbia and Rockefeller University.

The mission of the Institute lies in understanding the Earth to enhance sustainability. The flexible enterprise allows Columbia's best scholars in the earth, life and social sciences to work together across disciplines to get at a more fundamental understanding of the complexity of Earth's systems and put that knowledge to good use in securing the future of our planet. The Institute is a new experiment in academic organization: it provides a maximum of academic freedom and a minimum of institutional constraints, enabling colleagues to work on global problems of mutual concern, and with communities to implement the best ideas.

Published: Apr 05, 2002
Last modified:Sep 18, 2002

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