Phillips Academy, the venerable Andover prep school that goes back to the early days of the nation, has appointed a specialist on Internet law from Harvard as the new head of school, school officials said yesterday.

John G. Palfrey Jr. was named the 15th head of school, the board of trustees said in a statement. Palfrey is a professor and vice dean for library and information resources at Harvard Law, officials said.

The board voted unanimously in favor of Palfrey’s appointment, the statement said. He will succeed Barbara Landis Chase, who plans to retire at the end of the school year.


“The trustees were captivated by John’s intelligence, warmth, passion, and outstanding record of accomplishment,’’ Peter L.S. Currie, the board’s president-elect and chairman of the search committee, said in a statement.

A boarding school, Phillips was founded in 1778. Its students have included members of some of the country’s most prominent families, back to the Washington and Lee families of Virginia and the Lowells of Massachusetts. Students in the 20th century have included former presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.

Palfrey is also a faculty codirector of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard, where he served as executive director from 2002 to 2008. His research and teaching focus on Internet law, intellectual property, and the potential of new technologies to strengthen democracies locally and around the world, the statement said.

He returned to Harvard Law in 2002 after spending a year with the Boston law firm Ropes and Gray LLP. Palfrey also spent a year as a visiting professor at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland and served as a special assistant at the Environmental Protection Agency during the Clinton administration, the statement said.

He holds degrees from Harvard Law School, the University of Cambridge, and Harvard College, officials said.


His official duties as head of school will begin in July.

“I am deeply honored to be appointed the 15th head of school at Phillips Academy,’’ Palfrey said.

Amanda Cedrone can be reached at acedrone@globe.com.