This article needs to be updated.(November 2010)
Atherton was born November 22, 1921, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy. He received a B.S. in 1944 and an M.A. in 1947 from Harvard University. He served in the U.S. Army from 1943 to 1945.
Atherton joined the U.S. Foreign Service in 1947, and served in Stuttgart, Bonn, Damascus, and Aleppo. From 1959 to 1961, he was Iraq-Jordan desk officer, then Officer in Charge for Cyprus, in the Bureau of Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs at the State Department.
In 1961-62 Atherton took advanced economic studies at the University of California at Berkeley. From 1962 to 1965, he was economic officer in Calcutta, and from 1965 to 1966, he was Deputy Director of the Office of Near Eastern Affairs at the State Department.
In 1966 and 1967, Atherton was Country Director for Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. From 1967 to 1970, he was Country Director for Israel and Arab-Israel Affairs.
From 1970 to 1974, Atherton was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs. From 1974 to 1978, he was Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs. He was a member of the U.S. negotiating team at the Camp David summit in September 1978. The summit produced the Camp David Accords. He served as United States Ambassador to Egypt from 1979 to 1983.
From 1991 to 1992, Atherton served at Hamilton College as Sol M. Linowitz Visiting Professor of Government. There, he taught a small seminar on the history and dynamics of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
- 1983-1985 US State Department Director General of the Foreign Service
- 1979-1983 US Ambassador to Egypt
- 1978-1979 US Ambassador at Large
- 1974-1978 US Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs
- 1970-1974 US State Department Deputy Asst. Secy. for Near Eastern & South Asian Affairs
- 1967-1970 US State Department Country director for Israel and Arab-Israel Affairs
- 1966-1967 US State Department Country director for Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria
- 1965-1966 US State Department Deputy Director of the Office of Near Eastern Affairs
- 1962-1965 US State Department Economic Officer, Calcutta
- 1959-1961 US State Department Iraq-Jordan Desk, International Relations Office
- 1956-1959 US State Department Consul, Aleppo
- 1952-1956 US State Department Second Secretary-Vice Consul, Damascus
- 1949-1952 US State Department Political Reports Office, Bonn
- 1947-1949 US State Department Vice Consul, Stuttgart
Joseph J. Sisco
| Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs
April 27, 1974 – April 13, 1978
Harold H. Saunders
Hermann F. Eilts
| United States Ambassador to Egypt
July 2, 1979 – November 12, 1983
Nicholas A. Veliotes