Avery Leiserson was born in 1913 and died February 14, 2004 at the age of 90. He was a native of Madison, Wisconsin. He graduated from the University of Illinois in 1934 with a B.A. degree and in 1941 from the University of Chicago with a Ph.D in Political Science. He taught briefly at Princeton before moving to the University of Chicago in 1946. He taught at Vanderbilt University from 1952 until his retirement as Professor Emeritus in 1978. He was a nationally known scholar of American politics who was instrumental in building Vanderbilt’s Political Science department to a position of national prominence.
Professor Leiserson’s great mentor and influence was Charles E. Merriam. In an introduction to a program in 1975 of the American Political Science Asssociation, Samuel Patterson introduced Avery Leiserson as one of the most important leaders in the field of Political Science and noted especially his seminal work “Problems of Methodology in Political Research.”
In addition to his work on methodology in political science, Dr. Leiserson was known “for his concern about values, his devotion to scientific inquiry, and his emphasis on realism all of which were guided by his sense of the value of democracy.”
In the 1960’s Professor Leiserson was active in Civil Rights work, and he was one of a group of Vanderbilt professors who first proposed a Black Studies Program in the College of Arts and Science, which later became the African American Studies Program.
Professor Leiserson was honored with the Harvie Branscomb Distinquished Service Award in 1967 and with an “Avery Leiserson Day” on November 1, 2003 to recognize his many accomplishments during his long life and career.
His published books include:
Administrative Regulation: A Study of Representation of Interests (1942)
Parties and Politics: An Institutional and Behavioral Approach (1958)
The American South in the 1960’s (1964)
With these contributions to others:
Perspectives on the South: Agenda for Research (1967)
Political Research and Political Theory (1968)
Leiserson served as editor of the Journal of Politics and as book review editor of The American Political Science Review.