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Irving S. Friedman was born on in New York City in 1915. After graduating from Columbia University, Friedman began his career as an economist in the office of the Secretary of the Treasury. He joined the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 1946 where became a senior department director and headed missions to member countries. In 1950 Friedman became director of the Fund's Exchange Restrictions Department.
In October 1964, Friedman joined the World Bank. He was appointed by President George S. Woods as the first Economic Adviser to the President and was placed in the President's immediate staff. Friedman supervised the Economics Department and the Director of Special Economic Studies. He also oversaw the Economic Program Department, the Computing Activities Department, and the Development Research Center. Friedman was succeeded by Hollis B. Chenery as Economic Adviser to the President in October and left the Bank soon after.
After his time at the World Bank, Friedman joined Citibank in Manhattan in 1974 and First Boston Corporation in 1989. In the 1980s he held senior advisory positions with the African, Asian, and Inter-American Development Banks in addition to other public and commercial financial institutions. Throughout the 1970s and 80s, Friedman taught at a variety of academic institutions, including Yale University, the University of Virginia, and Fordham University. He also lectured abroad as well as at the Bank's Economic Development Institute (EDI, now the World Bank Institute [WBI]).
Irving Friedman died in November 1989.