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Samuel Hutchison Beer (July 28, 1911 – April 7, 2009) was an American political scientist who specialized in the government and politics of the United Kingdom. He was a longtime professor at Harvard University and served as president of the Americans for Democratic Action in the early 1960s.

Early life and educationEdit

Beer was born in Bucyrus, Ohio. He attended Staunton Military Academy with Barry Goldwater, and the two played on the school's football team. He was a graduate of the University of Michigan and was named a Rhodes Scholar, attending Balliol College, Oxford, where he was awarded a degree in history.[1]

Following his graduation and return to the United States, Beer worked for the Democratic National Committee and wrote speeches for President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the mid-1930s. He also was a reporter for The New York Post and Fortune. He then attended graduate school at Harvard University and graduated in 1943 with a doctorate in political science. During World War II, Beer served in the United States Army, where he served in the artillery and was awarded a Bronze Star Medal for his actions during the Normandy landings. After the war, he was part of the Allied Military Government in Germany and eventually left the Army with the rank of captain.[1]

Teaching and published worksEdit

At the conclusion of his military service in 1946, he joined the faculty of Harvard University. There, he became one of Harvard's most popular and iconic professors, teaching its undergraduates "Western Thought and Institutions" for more than three decades, a course that covered European history, philosophy, and politics by examining six of history's revolutions in great detail—the twelfth century clash between church and state that resulted in Magna Carta; the Protestant Reformation of the early sixteenth century; the English revolution of the mid-seventeenth century; the French Revolution; the British Age of Reform of the early nineteenth century; and the rise and fall of Nazi Germany in the twentieth century.[1]

Beer published several books in his field, including his first in 1949, The City of Reason, which advocated a political approach predicated on the philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1955.[2] His 1956 book, Treasury Control, documented fiscal policy in the UK. In 1965, British Politics in the Collectivist Age considered the conflict between liberal and conservative approaches in the UK following World War II. Britain Against Itself: The Political Contradictions of Collectivism (1982) analyzed the UK in the Thatcher era. He focused on the US in To Make a Nation: The Rediscovery of American Federalism (1993) about American political theory.[1]

Following his retirement from Harvard in 1982, Beer served on the faculties of both Boston College and Dartmouth College. He was also a senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.[1]


Beer died at age 97 at his home in Washington, D.C..[3] He was survived by Jane K. Brooks, his second wife, two daughters, and two stepdaughters; six grandchildren; three step-grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Grimes, William. "Samuel H. Beer, Authority on British Government, Dies at 97", The New York Times, April 18, 2009. Accessed April 19, 2009.
  2. "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter B". American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved May 29, 2011. 
  3. Holley, Joe (April 14, 2009). "Political Scientist, Author Cautioned Panel On Clinton Impeachment". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 29, 2011. 


  • Harvard University
  • Peter A. Hall and Harvey C. Mansfield, In Memoriam notice for Samuel H. Beer, P.S.: Political Science and Politics, July 2009, pp. 592–94.

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