Political scientist Robert D. Putnam has been described as the most influential academic in the world today. Putnam is the Malkin Professor of Public Policy at Harvard and Visiting Professor and Director of the Graduate Programme in Social Change, University of Manchester (UK). Putnam was raised in a small town in the Midwest and educated at Oxford and Yale and has received honorary degrees from Swarthmore, Oxford, and Stockholm University. Before starting to teach at Harvard in 1979, he taught at the University of Michigan and served on the staff of the National Security Council.

He has served as Dean of the Kennedy School of Government, is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the British Academy, the American Philosophical Society, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and is past president of the American Political Science Association. In 2006, he received the Skytte Prize, the most prestigious international award for scholarly achievement in political science. The London Sunday Times has called him “the most influential academic in the world today.”

Putnam’s many books have been translated into 20 languages, including the best-selling Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. His Better Together: Restoring the American Community presents a study of new forms of social connectedness. The Economist praised his Making Democracy Work as "a great work of social science, worthy to rank alongside de Tocqueville, Pareto, and Weber." Both Making Democracy Work and Bowling Alone rank among the most cited publications in worldwide social sciences in the last half century.

Bowling Alone has struck a chord with many concerned with the state of public life. He has been the focus of seminars hosted by Bill Clinton at Camp David,Tony Blair at 10 Downing Street, George W. Bush at the White House, and Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi at his tent in the desert. He has worked on these themes with Barack Obama, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French president Nicolas Sarkozy, Ireland’s Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, and many other national leaders and grassroots activists around the world. He founded the Saguaro Seminar, an ongoing initiative that brings together leading thinkers and practitioners from across America to develop actionable ideas for civic renewal.

His earlier work included research on political elites, Italian politics, and globalization. He is currently working on four major empirical projects: the changing role of religion in contemporary America; strategies for social integration in the context of immigration and ethnic diversity; the effects of workplace practices on family and community life; and growing class disparities among American youth.