Richard R. Nelson is an American professor of economics at Columbia University. He is one of the leading figures in the revival of evolutionary economics thanks to his seminal book An Evolutionary Theory of Economic Change (1982) written jointly with Sidney G. Winter. He is also renowned for his work on industry, economic growth, the theory of the firm, and technical change.
Nelson is currently the George Blumenthal Professor Emeritus of International and Public Affairs, Business, and Law, and the director of the Program on Science, Technology and Global Development at Columbia's The Earth Institute. He is also a part-time faculty in the Manchester Institute of Innovation Research (MIoIR, formerly known as PREST), University of Manchester. Previously he was professor at Oberlin College, Carnegie Mellon University, and Yale University (1968–1986) where he was the director of the Institute for Social and Policy Studies (1981–1986).
He also has served as research economist and analyst at the Rand Corporation (1957–60, 1963–68), and on the President’s Council of Economic Advisers under President John F. Kennedy (1961–63).
In 2005 he was awarded the Leontief Prize presented by the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University. In 2006 he became the 27th laureate of the Honda Prize.
Nelson has cooperated with Erik Reinert and his heterodox economics network The Other Canon Foundation.