Alexander L. George

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Alexander L. George, (deceased) "the Graham H. Stuart Professor of International Relations, Emeritus, internationally known for his pioneering work in political psychology and foreign policy, died on Aug. 16 at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle following a massive stroke. George was 86.

""Many people consider Alex George to be the greatest scholar of international relations of his generation," said Dr. David Hamburg, president emeritus at Carnegie Corporation of New York and a former chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford.

"A professor of political science at Stanford from 1968 to 1990, George published seminal articles on the impact of cognitive beliefs on an individual's political behavior and on the role of stress in decision-making. He also developed methods of using case studies as a basis for building theories of political behavior, especially in the areas of Cold War foreign policy.

"George bridged the two worlds of academia and policymakers, said Hamburg, who met George in 1957 at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, where both were fellows.

"He was the among the first to lead behavioral scientists into studying the "very painful and dangerous" issues of nuclear crisis management during the Cold War era and to carry knowledge directly to policy leaders, Hamburg said. George "focused a great deal of attention on reducing nuclear danger," he added. "I regard him as a truly great scholar and human being."

"George was born in Chicago on May 31, 1920, and earned undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of Chicago, where he received his doctorate in political science in 1958.

"During World War II, George was a research analyst for the Federal Communications Commission from 1942 to 1944 and served as a civil affairs officer in post-war Germany from 1945 to 1948. He taught at the University of Chicago and the American University in Washington, D.C., and from 1948 to 1968 was a specialist on the study of decision-making and international relations at the RAND Corporation. George became director of the social science department at RAND before joining the Stanford faculty in 1968.

"A prolific author, George came to prominence with the publication of his first book, Woodrow Wilson and Colonel House (1956), which he co-authored with his wife, Juliette L. George. Controversial at the time of its publication, it is regarded as one of the best psychological biographies ever written.

"In 1994, a special issue of the journal Political Psychology was dedicated to examining and honoring George's work. In the publication, scholar Janice Gross Stein called George an "architect, engineer and community-builder in political psychology" who had left an "enduring blueprint for the study of the psychology of international relations."

""George's scholarship also has had a significant and continuing impact on historical case-study methodology in political science, said Scott Sagan, the co-director of the Center for International Security and Cooperation at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford. George is co-author of the highly regarded Case Studies and Theory Development in the Social Sciences (2005).

"Sagan also noted George's substantive research contributions to foreign policy research. His work has been "particularly important in developing our understanding of deterrence and coercive diplomacy," Sagan wrote in an e-mail.

"In 1975, George was awarded the Bancroft Prize for American History and Diplomacy for Deterrence in American Foreign Policy, which he co-authored with Richard Smoke. His 1993 book, Bridging the Gap Between Theory and Practice in Foreign Policy, urges collaboration between the practitioners and scholars of politics.

"After his retirement from Stanford, George was a distinguished fellow at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C., where he was invited to discuss the role of regional conflicts in international affairs alongside Nobel laureates Oscar Arias Sanchez, former president of Costa Rica, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa.

"George continued his scholarship and writing until a few months before his death. His latest work, On Foreign Policy: Unfinished Business (2006), reflects on his 60 years of scholarship and work on public policy." [1]

Resources and articles


  1. Alexander George, 'giant' in international relations, dead at 86, Stanford News Service, accessed July 17, 2007.
  2. The Johan Skytte Prize in Political Science, Uppsala University, accessed September 20, 2007.