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Robert W. Oliver Papers

Identifier: 10109-MS

Scope and Content

The collection is composed of eight series, organized in thirteen archival boxes, and consists of an assortment of material preserved over the course of Oliver's careers as an economist, educator, and civic leader.


  • 1946-1998

Language of Materials



The collection is open for research. Researchers must apply in writing for access.

Publication Rights

Copyright may not have been assigned to the California Institute of Technology Archives. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Caltech Archivist. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the California Institute of Technology Archives as the owner of the physical items and, unless explicitly stated otherwise, is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.


Robert W. Oliver was born in Los Angeles on October 26, 1922. He attended the University of Southern California (USC), where he earned his BA degree in 1943 and his MA degree in 1948, both in economics and international relations. In 1957 he received his PhD in economics from Princeton University.

Oliver worked as a research economist with the Stanford Institute from May 1956 to September 1959, where he engaged in studies dealing with civil defense, international shipping, the role of small-scale manufacturing in economic development, and the economy of the City of Pasadena.

During the 1950s he was an instructor at Pomona College and an assistant professor at USC. Then, in September of 1959, he joined the faculty of the California Institute of Technology, where he conducted courses in elementary economics, international economics and economic development. During the years of 1961-1963, he administrated a faculty graduate-student seminar on the problems of technical assistance to less developed countries. For twelve years (1975 to 1987) he was chairman of the student working-group of the California Seminar on International Security and Foreign Policy.

During his many years at Caltech, Oliver also worked as an economist with the World Bank. In the summer of 1961, he transcribed an oral history of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development for the Brookings Institution, and in 1986, as a consultant to the World Bank, he conducted in-depth interviews for the Bank's oral history project. In 1970-1971, while on leave from Caltech, he worked in the Economics of Urbanization Division of the World Bank in Washington, DC, and participated in Bank missions to Indonesia and Taiwan.

Oliver was also involved with the local politics of the city of Pasadena. During the years of 1964-1965, he was chairman of the Pasadena Citizens' Downtown Improvement Bond Committee, chairman of the Task Force on Housing of the Pasadena Human Relations Committee, and also served on the Community Relations Committee of the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce. In 1965 he was elected to a four-year term on the Pasadena Board of Directors, from which office he retired in 1969, without seeking reelection. From 1972 through 1975, and from 1991 through 1995, he was a member of the Planning Commission of the City of Pasadena. He also served on the City's Utility Advisory Commission and the Board of Directors of the Pasadena Minority History Foundation. He was President of the Pasadena Beautiful Foundation and also served on the Pasadena Historical Society, Tournament of Roses Association and League of Women Voters.

Oliver died of a heart attack at his home in Pasadena on July 17, 1998.


7.5 linear feet (13 boxes)


The working papers, correspondence, publications, and biographical material of Robert Warner Oliver form the collection known as the Papers of Robert W. Oliver in the Archives of the California Institute of Technology. Oliver was professor of economics at Caltech from 1959-1988.


The correspondence section, Series 1, contains a large amount of both incoming and outgoing correspondence. Letters are arranged chronologically within the alphabetically ordered folders.

Very little of Oliver's teaching or research activities is documented in the collection. Series 2, which focuses on Oliver's years at Caltech, deals mainly with his involvement in different Caltech Committees and only slightly with his teaching activities. One folder in this series that deals with the Jenijoy La Belle tenure issue (Box 6.14) is closed to researchers indefinitely due to the confidential nature of the material.

Oliver's involvement in local politics is documented in Series 3, while his involvement with the World Bank is documented in Series 4. Oliver conducted tape-recorded interviews with officials for the Bank's oral history project. These interviews are available for researchers in the oral history series of the Butler Library at Columbia University and in the Archives of the World Bank. Oliver was also employed in the Economics of Urbanization Division at the World Bank during 1970-1971, where he wrote working papers about Indonesia and Taiwan, which can be found in Series 5, containing most of his preprints, reprints, technical reports and other publications.

Some of Oliver's talks and speeches are arranged in Series 6 in chronological order. Folders in this series contain a wide variety of talk-related documents, from outlines and notes to related correspondence. Series 7 contains a small amount of biographical material. For further biographical information, researchers should refer to his oral history, conducted by Loma Karklins in 1990, which is deposited in the Caltech Archives.

Physical Location

California Institute of Technology, Institute Archives

Acquisition Information

The papers were donated to the Caltech Archives by Robert Oliver himself in 1990 and supplemented with one box from the Division of Humanities and Social Sciences following his death in 1998.
Finding Aid for the Robert W. Oliver Papers, 1946-1998
Processed by Nurit Lifshitz.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Repository Details

Part of the California Institute of Technology Archives and Special Collections Repository

1200 East California Blvd.
MC B215-74
Pasadena California 91125 United States of America
(626) 395-2704