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During the 1980s he was on the faculty of Brown University, moving to Harvard around 1988. He served as chair of the department at Harvard from 2002 to 2005. His work is characterized by its classical geometric flavor: he has claimed that nothing he thinks about could not have been imagined by the Italian geometers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and that if he has had greater success than them, it is because he has access to better tools.
Harris is well known for several of his books on algebraic geometry, notable for their informal presentations: