Lawrence Summers was born on June 21, 1914, in Bevier, Missouri, to Terence J. and Edith Baldwin Summers. Summers grew up in Boone, Iowa, and received his Bachelor of Science from Iowa State University and a Master of Science in chemistry from Utah State College. His schooling was interrupted during World War II when he served as a research chemist working with munitions in Bridgeport, Connecticut. While earning his Ph.D. at Iowa State, he married Jane Frazer on March 16, 1947.
After college, Summers joined the faculty of the University of North Dakota, becoming one of the University's first chemists to run an active research program supported by external financial grants. His work dealt with creating new types of organic chemical compounds of metals. From 1967 to 1971, he was the Honors Program coordinator and soon began devoting more time to teaching than to research.
Dr. Summers had a lifelong interest in ornithology, languages, and linguistics. He was a member of the American Ornithologists Union and a research consultant at the Institute of Language and Linguistics at Georgetown University. He was also a member of the American Chemical Society, Sigma XI scientific research Society, the State Historical Board of North Dakota, and a proud member of the original North Dakota Nonpartisan League.
After 30 years of teaching at the University, Summers retired in 1981. While retired, he continued with his interest in the study of birds and languages and also created a pictorial archive of North Dakota wild flowers. Dr. Summers later moved to Bismarck where he died on October 26, 2000.