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Robert W. Oliver (1922-1998) was an economist who specialized in World Bank issues. A native of Los Angeles, California, he earned undergraduate and master's degrees from the University of Southern California and a Ph.D. from Princeton University. He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II.
Oliver taught at Pomona College in California, then in 1959 he joined the California Institute of Technology, where he remained for the rest of his career. In 1961 Oliver conducted a series of oral histories under contract to the World Bank, the first time that oral history had been used by the Bank; in the late 1980s he also conducted oral history interviews under contract to the Bank. During 1970-1971, while on leave from Caltech, he worked for the World Bank in the urban development sector and participated in Bank missions to Indonesia and Taiwan. He wrote four books on the World Bank and one on Indonesia that was informed by his work at the Bank.
After George D. Woods died, Louise Woods wanted a biography of him written. According to the Preface in Oliver's biography of Woods, George Woods and the World Bank, a mutual friend introduced her to Oliver, and they subsequently agreed that Oliver would undertake the biography.