Walter Isaacson

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Walter Isaacson
Walter Isaacson VF 2012 Shankbone 2.JPG
Isaacson in New York in 2012
Born (1952-05-20) May 20, 1952 (age 62)
New Orleans, LA, USA
Residence Washington, DC
Occupation Author
Spouse(s) Cathy Wright Isaacson[1]

Benjamin Franklin Medal (Royal Society of Arts) (2013)

The Nichols-Chancellor's Medal (2015)

Walter Isaacson (born May 20, 1952)[2] 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 CNN and the Managing Editor of Time. He has written biographies of Steve Jobs, Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein and Henry Kissinger.

Early life[edit]

Walter Isaacson was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. His father was an electrical engineer, and his mother was a real estate broker. After graduating from New Orleans' Isidore Newman School and a summer at Deep Springs College as a participant in the Telluride Association Summer Program (TASP), Isaacson attended Harvard University and earned a BA in 1974 in history and literature. While at Harvard, Isaacson was president of the Signet Society, a member of the Harvard Lampoon and a resident of Lowell House. He then attended the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar at Pembroke College and read Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE).[1][2]


Walter Isaacson began his career in journalism at The Sunday Times of London and then the New Orleans Times-Picayune. He joined Time magazine in 1978 and served as a political correspondent, national editor, and editor of new media before becoming the magazine's 14th editor in 1996. He became chairman and CEO of CNN in 2001, and then president and CEO of the Aspen Institute in 2003.[2] He is the author of American Sketches (2009), Einstein: His Life and Universe (2007), Benjamin Franklin: An American Life (2003) and Kissinger: A Biography (1992), and he is the co-author, with Evan Thomas, of The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made (1986).[1] He is the editor of Profiles in Leadership: Historians on the Elusive Quality of Greatness (2010, W. W. Norton).[2][3]

On October 24, 2011, Isaacson's authorized biography of Apple Computer co-founder Steve 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 whose vision revolutionized computing, music, phones, animated films, and publishing.[4][5][6][7][8] In 2014, he published The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution. It became a New York Times bestseller.

He 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.[9] Isaacson is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and was awarded its 2013 Benjamin Franklin Medal.[10] 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."[11]

He was selected as the 2015 recipient of The Nichols-Chancellor's Medal at Vanderbilt University and will deliver the school's commencement address at Senior Day in May.

Government service[edit]

Isaacson at a State Department briefing

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.[12] 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.[13] 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 United States at the Da Nang air base and plans to build health centers and a dioxin laboratory in the affected regions.[citation needed] 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.[14] He served until January 2012.


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