Isaacson in New York in 2012
May 20, 1952 |
New Orleans, LA, USA
|Alma mater||Harvard University
University of Oxford
|Spouse(s)||Cathy Wright Isaacson|
|Awards||The Nichols-Chancellor's Medal (2015)|
Walter Isaacson (born May 20, 1952) is an American writer and biographer. He is the President and CEO of the Aspen Institute, a nonpartisan educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C. He has been the chairman and CEO of Cable News Network (CNN) and the Managing Editor of Time. He has written biographies of Steve Jobs, Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, and Henry Kissinger.
Early life and education
Isaacson was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the older of two sons of Irwin and Betty Lee (Seff) Isaacson. His father was an electrical engineer, and his mother was a real estate broker. After graduating from New Orleans' Isidore Newman School, as well as a summer at Deep Springs College for the Telluride Association Summer Program (TASP), Isaacson graduated from Harvard University in 1974 with a BA in history and literature. At Harvard, Isaacson was the president of the Signet Society, a member of the Harvard Lampoon, and a resident of Lowell House. He then attended the University of Oxford in the UK as a Rhodes Scholar at Pembroke College, where he read Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE).
Isaacson began his career in journalism at The Sunday Times of London, followed by a position with the New Orleans Times-Picayune. He joined Time magazine in 1978, serving as the magazine's political correspondent, national editor, and editor of new media before becoming the magazine's 14th editor in 1996.
Isaacson became chairman and CEO of CNN in 2001. Shortly after his appointment at CNN, Isaacson attracted attention for seeking the views of Republican party leaders on Capitol Hill regarding criticisms that CNN broadcast content that was unfair to Republicans or conservatives. He was quoted in Roll Call magazine as saying: "I was trying to reach out to a lot of Republicans who feel that CNN has not been as open to covering Republicans, and I wanted to hear their concerns." The CEO's conduct was criticized by the Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) organization, which said that Isaacson's "pandering" behavior was endowing conservative politicians with power over CNN.
Isaacson is the author of American Sketches (2009), Einstein: His Life and Universe (2007), Benjamin Franklin: An American Life (2003) and Kissinger: A Biography (1992). He is the co-author, with Evan Thomas, of The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made (1986).
On October 24, 2011, Steve Jobs, Isaacson's authorized biography of Apple Computer's Jobs was published by Simon & Schuster. It became an international best-seller, breaking all records for sales of a biography. The book was based on over forty interviews with Jobs over a two-year period right up until shortly before his death. Isaacson also drew on conversations with friends, family members, and business rivals of the entrepreneur.
In October 2014, Isaacson published The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution, which explores the history of the key technological innovations that are prominent in the 21st century. Isaacson's particular focus in the book are the parallel developments of the computing machine and the Internet. Writing for the New York Times, Janet Maslin described the author as "a kindred spirit to the visionaries and enthusiasts" who Isaacson wrote about. Several weeks after its release, the book featured in all of the New York Times' bestseller lists: number-three on the print and e-book nonfiction list, fourth on the hardcover nonfiction list, and number-two on the e-book nonfiction list.
In October 2005, Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco appointed Isaacson vice chairman of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, a board that oversaw spending on the recovery from Hurricane Katrina. In December 2007, he was appointed by President George W. Bush to the chairman of the U.S.-Palestinian Partnership, which seeks to create economic and educational opportunities in the Palestinian territories. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appointed him vice-chair of the Partners for a New Beginning, which encourages private-sector investments and partnerships in the Muslim world.
He also serves as the cochair of the U.S.-Vietnamese Dialogue on Agent Orange, which in January 2008 announced completion of a project to contain the dioxin left behind by the U.S. at the Da Nang air base—plans to build health centers and a dioxin laboratory in the affected regions were also announced. In 2009, he was appointed by President Obama to be Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which runs Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, and the other international broadcasts of the U.S. government—he served until January 2012. In 2014, he was appointed by New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu to be the co-chair of the New Orleans Tricentennial Commission, which is planning the city's 300th anniversary commemoration in 2018.
Isaacson is the chairman emeritus of the board of Teach for America. He is on the boards of United Airlines, Tulane University, Overseers of Harvard University, the Bloomberg Family Foundation, and the Society of American Historians, of which he served as president in 2012.
In 2012, he was selected as one of the Time 100, the magazine's list of the most influential people in the world. Isaacson is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and was awarded its 2013 Benjamin Franklin Medal. He is also a member of the American Philosophical Society and an Honorary Fellow of Pembroke College, Oxford.
In 2014 the National Endowment for the Humanities selected Isaacson for the Jefferson Lecture, the U.S. federal government's highest honor for achievement in the humanities. The title of Isaacson's lecture was "The Intersection of the Humanities and the Sciences."
- The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made (1986, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 978-1451683226) – co-authored with Evan Thomas
- Kissinger: A Biography (1992, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 978-0671663230)
- Benjamin Franklin: An American Life (2003, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 978-0684807614)
- Einstein: His Life and Universe (2007, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 978-0743264747)
- American Sketches (2009, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 978-1439183441)
- Steve Jobs (2011, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 978-1451648539)
- The Innovators: How a Group of Inventors, Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution (2014, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 978-1476708690)
- Robin Pogrebin, "At Work and at Play, Time's Editor Seeks to Keep Magazine Vigorous at 75", New York Times, March 9, 1998.
- Millie Ball, "Steve Jobs' biographer is hometown son Walter Isaacson," The Times-Picayune, December 11, 2011.
- "Family of Sid Salinger". Sid Salinger. Retrieved February 1, 2015.
- Eason Jordan (15 August 2001). "New CNN Chief Trying to Please GOP Elite". FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting). Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting. Retrieved 18 January 2015.
- Associated Press (6 August 2001). "New CNN chairman meets with GOP critics". USA Today. Retrieved 18 January 2015.
- Janet Maslin, "The Scale of Einstein, From Faith to Formulas," New York Times, April 9, 2007.
- Rene Lynch, "Steve Jobs biography: Release date moves up, skyrockets to No. 1", Los Angeles Times, October 6, 2011.
- Brad Stone, "Jobs Is Said to Assist With Book on His Life", New York Times, February 15, 2010.
- Eyder Peralta, "Steve Jobs Authorizes Biography; It's Due Out Early 2012", NPR, April 11, 2011.
- Kara Swisher, "New Jobs Bio Cover Is All Apple With Pub Date of November", All Things Digital, August 15, 2011.
- Walter Isaacson, "The Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs," Harvard Business Review, April 2012.
- Janet Maslin (8 October 2014). "Heralds of the Digital Tomorrow". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 January 2015.
- Rachel Pickering (29 October 2014). "The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson". Maroon Weekly. Campus Press LP. Retrieved 18 January 2015.
- "President Bush Meets with U.S.-Palestinian Public-Private Partnership", White House press release, December 2007.
- "Partners for a New Beginning", state.gov, April 26, 2010.
- Plan addresses Agent Orange legacy in Vietnam - World news - World environment | NBC News
- "President Obama More Key Administration Posts", White House press release, November 18, 2009.
- Alex Woodward, "Mayor Landrieu unveils New Orleans' tricentennial group," Best of New Orleans, December 1, 2014.
- SAH, Executive board
- Madeleine K. Albright, "The World's 100 Most Influential People: 2012", Time, April 18, 2012.
- "2013 Benjamin Franklin Medal Presentation To Walter Isaacson", RSA United States, October 2013.
- Chris Waddington, "Best-selling biographer Walter Isaacson will deliver prestigious Jefferson Lecture in 2014", Times-Picayune, January 28, 2014.
- "Senior Day Speaker," Vanderbilt.edu. Accessed February 12, 2015.
- List of recent articles by Isaacson
- List of recent articles about Isaacson
- interview with Isaacson on Kissinger: A Biography, on Booknotes, September 27, 1992
- Walter Isaacson at the Internet Movie Database