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Robert Dahl ’40PhD, renowned political scientist, dies at 98

Robert Dahl ’40PhD, one of America's greatest political scientists and a major contributor to Yale's renown in the field, died Thursday at a Hamden, Connecticut, nursing home. He was 98.

A Sterling Professor emeritus, Dahl taught at Yale for more than 30 years before his retirement in 1987. In his most famous work, Who Governs?, published in 1961, Dahl examined power dynamics in the city of New Haven at the time in order to better understand the forces at work in democracy. A 1985 issue of Foreign Affairs deemed him "the dean of American political scientists."  

Dahl, who was born in Inwood, Iowa, in 1915 but moved with his family to Skagway, Alaska, a decade later, attended the University of Washington before receiving a doctorate from Yale in 1940. After graduation, he joined the Army as a first lieutenant during the Second World War and was awarded a Bronze Star for his service. 

At Yale, Dahl was influential not only for helping grow and reshape the University's political science department but also for his work on committees and informally advising Yale presidents. During the Vietnam War, for instance, Dahl helped peacefully resolve a debate on campus concerning ROTC that risked getting out of hand. 

A prolific writer throughout his career, Dahl also formerly served as president of the American Political Science Association.

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