He was born in New Rochelle, New York, in 1952, a son of illustrator and cartoonist John Cullen Murphy. He grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut. He was educated at Amherst College, from which he graduated with honors in medieval history in 1974. Murphy's first magazine job was in the paste-up department of Change, a magazine devoted to higher education.
He became an editor of The Wilson Quarterly in 1977. From the mid 1970s until 2004 he worked with his father, John Cullen Murphy, as writer for the comic strip Prince Valiant, for which his father produced the artwork. He is also the author of The Word According to Eve: Women and the Bible in Ancient Times and Our Own (1999); Are We Rome? (2007), which compares the politics and culture of Ancient Rome with that of the contemporary United States; God's Jury: The Inquisition and the Making of the Modern World (2012); and Cartoon County: My Father and His Friends in the Golden Age of Make-Believe (2017), a history of the cartoonists and illustrators from the Connecticut School.
He currently serves as editor at large for Vanity Fair and lives in Massachusetts. He is on the advisory board of the literary magazine The Common, based at Amherst College. He has three children: Jack, Anna, and Tim.
- Rathje, William & Cullen Murphy (1992). Rubbish! The archaeology of garbage. New York: HarperCollins.
- Murphy, Cullen (1995). Just curious : essays. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
- — (August 1996). "Eminent domains : a horticulturalist and the landscape at Monticello that he has brought back to life". Brief Lives. The Atlantic Monthly. 278 (2): 28–31.
- Cullen Murphy (September 21, 2009). "Triumphant Return; An insider expounds on "Prince Valiant"". Vanity Fair.
- Shafritz, Jay M.; Russell, E.W.; Borick, Christopher P. (2013). Introducing Public Administration (8 ed.). New Jersey: Pearson Education. p. 211. ISBN 978-0-205-85589-6.
- "About | The Common". Thecommononline.org. Retrieved 2012-03-10.
- Official website
- Murphy bio at TheAtlantic.com
- Video of debate/discussion with Cullen Murphy and Rod Dreher on Bloggingheads.tv
- Appearances on C-SPAN
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