Robert Jervis
Born(1940-04-30)April 30, 1940
DiedDecember 9, 2021(2021-12-09) (aged 81)
Academic background
Academic work
DisciplinePolitical science
Doctoral students
InfluencedShiping Tang

Robert Jervis (April 30, 1940 – December 9, 2021) was an American political scientist who was the Adlai E. Stevenson Professor of International Politics in the Department of Political Science at Columbia University. Jervis was co-editor of the Cornell Studies in Security Affairs, a series published by Cornell University Press.

He is known for his contributions to political psychology, international relations theory, nuclear strategy, and intelligence studies.[1][2] According to the Open Syllabus Project, Jervis is one of the most-frequently cited authors on college syllabi for political science courses.[3]

Early life and education

Robert Jervis was born in 1940.[4][5] He earned a BA from Oberlin College in 1962. At Oberlin, he developed an interest in nuclear strategy, and was influenced by Thomas Schelling’s Strategy of Conflict and Glenn Snyder’s Deterrence and Defense.[5][6] In 1962, he began graduate work at University of California, Berkeley, where he studied under Glenn Snyder. He received a PhD from UC Berkeley in 1968. [7]


From 1968 to 1972, he was an assistant professor of government at Harvard University and was an associate professor from 1972 to 1974. According to Jervis, Schelling brought him to Harvard.[5] In 1974, Jervis was a candidate for the tenured chair vacated by Henry Kissinger when he started working in the Richard Nixon administration, but the Government department at Harvard did not consider Jervis qualified.[8] At Harvard, he developed a close friendship with Schelling and Kenneth Waltz.[5] From 1974 to 1980, he was a professor of political science at the University of California, Los Angeles. He was a member of the Columbia University faculty from 1980 until his death in 2021. He was a member of the Arnold A. Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies in the School of International and Public Affairs. He was president of the American Political Science Association in 2000–2001.[7]

Jervis consulted for the CIA.[5]

He worked on perceptions and misperceptions in foreign policy decision making. Jervis played a key role in introducing insights from psychology to International Relations scholarship.[9] Charles Glaser described Jervis's work on the security dilemma as "among the most important works in international relations of the past few decades."[10]

According to Jack Snyder, "Jervis's body of thought can be categorized in terms of five interrelated themes: communication in strategic bargaining, perception and misperception in international politics, cooperation in anarchy, the nuclear revolution, and complex system effects and unintended consequences."[11] According to Thomas J. Christensen and Keren Yarhi-Milo, "in seeking to understand both behavior and outcomes in world affairs, Jervis championed the role of individuals’ perceptions and formative experiences rather than just broad political, social, and economic forces... [His] work was always rooted in the complexities of actual decision-making by real people with quirks and flaws."[12]

Jervis was a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society.[13] In 2006 he was awarded the NAS Award for Behavior Research Relevant to the Prevention of Nuclear War from the National Academy of Sciences.[14] He participated in the 2010 Hertog Global Strategy Initiative, a high-level research program on nuclear proliferation.[15]

In 2021, he was elected member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.[16] Jervis was the recipient of the 1990 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order.[17]

Personal life and death

Jervis met his wife Kathe (née Weil) Jervis in 1961 on a student trip to the Soviet Union.[18] Together they had two daughters, Alexa and Lisa.[18] Lisa Jervis is a co-founder of Bitch magazine.[19]

In the early 1960s, while studying for his PhD in Political Science at the University of California at Berkeley, Jervis participated in the Free Speech Movement.[18]

Jervis died of lung cancer on December 9, 2021, at the age of 81.[20]

Selected publications




  1. ^ Wirtz, James J. (2022). "Robert Jervis: remembering the dean of intelligence studies". Intelligence and National Security. 37 (5): 732–740. doi:10.1080/02684527.2022.2055707. ISSN 0268-4527. S2CID 247901751.
  2. ^ "Remembering Robert Jervis". Texas National Security Review. 2022.
  3. ^ "Open Syllabus: Explorer". Archived from the original on January 12, 2023. Retrieved January 25, 2020.
  4. ^ Jervis, Robert (2018). "Politics and Political Science". Annual Review of Political Science. 21: 1–19. doi:10.1146/annurev-polisci-090617-115035.
  5. ^ a b c d e Jervis, Robert (March 4, 2020). "H-Diplo Essay 198- Robert Jervis on Learning the Scholar's Craft". H-Diplo | ISSF. Retrieved June 8, 2021.
  6. ^ Jervis, Robert (December 28, 2016). "Thomas C. Schelling: A Reminiscence". War on the Rocks. Retrieved December 10, 2021.
  7. ^ a b "The Institute Mourns the Passing of Robert Jervis". Columbia SIPA. December 9, 2021. Retrieved December 11, 2021.
  8. ^ "Gov Dept. Fails to Fill Kissinger Chair". The Harvard Crimson. 1974.
  9. ^ Cohen, Benjamin J. (2008). International Political Economy: An Intellectual History. Princeton University Press. p. 121. ISBN 978-0-691-13569-4.
  10. ^ Glaser, Charles L. (1997). "The Security Dilemma Revisited". World Politics. 50 (1): 171–201. doi:10.1017/S0043887100014763. ISSN 1086-3338. S2CID 41736348.
  11. ^ Snyder, Jack (2000). "Robert Jervis: Illuminating the Dilemmas of International Politics". PS: Political Science & Politics. 33 (3): 663–666. doi:10.1017/S1049096500061783. ISSN 1537-5935. S2CID 155198741.
  12. ^ Christensen, Thomas J.; Yarhi-Milo, Keren (January 7, 2022). "The Human Factor". Foreign Affairs. ISSN 0015-7120. Retrieved January 7, 2022.
  13. ^ "APS Member History". Retrieved March 12, 2021.
  14. ^ "NAS Award for Behavior Research Relevant to the Prevention of Nuclear War". National Academy of Sciences. Archived from the original on June 4, 2011. Retrieved February 16, 2011.
  15. ^ "Hertog Strategy Institute Summer Program | Center for Strategic and International Studies". Archived from the original on January 11, 2011. Retrieved August 23, 2010.
  16. ^ "News from the National Academy of Sciences". April 26, 2021. Retrieved July 4, 2021. Newly elected members and their affiliations at the time of election are: … Jervis, Robert; Adlai Stevenson Professor of Political Science, School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University, New York City, entry in member directory:"Member Directory". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved July 4, 2021.
  17. ^ "1990– Robert Jervis". Archived from the original on September 5, 2014.
  18. ^ a b c "Robert Jervis Obituary". H-Diplo. December 10, 2021. Retrieved December 10, 2021.
  19. ^ Bitch, Lisa Jervis profile.
  20. ^ "Robert Jervis, 1940-2021 | Political Science". Retrieved September 7, 2022.

Further reading