Oliver Eaton Williamson is born in Superior, WI, the second child of two teachers.

He serves as special economic assistant to the head of the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice, which for him is a defining event.

Then he works for the US government.

He attends public schools in Superior, WI.

While working in Washington, he meets and marries Dolores Celini, with whom he has five children.

Then he attends MIT Sloan School of Management in Massachusetts where he gains his bachelor’s degree in 1955.

In 1958, he is accepted into the Ph.D. program at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford. His engineering training in mathematics, statistics and model building gives him a good foundation for his thesis in economics.

He joins the faculty of the Economics Department at the University of California, Berkeley.

His initial thoughts of becoming a lawyer change in high school as he becomes more attracted to math and science. When he begins talking about being an engineer, his mother declares that M.I.T. was the place to go and, with the advice of the physics teacher at the local college, he enrolls in Ripon College, which had a combined plan with M.I.T..

His first job is at General Electric as a project engineer.

He returns to Berkeley where he serves as Chair of the Academic Senate in 1995–96 before retiring in 2004. He is currently a Professor Emeritus at Berkeley.

He completes his PhD in economics at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, with a dissertation on “The Economics of Discretionary Behavior: Managerial Objectives in a Theory of the Firm”.

He moves to the University of Pennsylvania.

Oliver Williamson shares the 2009 Nobel Prize for Economics with Elinor Ostrom "for his analysis of economic governance, especially the boundaries of the firm”. He has provided a theory of why some economic transactions take place within firms and others in the marketplace between firms.

In 1983 Williamson accepts an appointment to the School of Organization and Management, the Law School, and the Economics Department at Yale.