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James Gleick

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James Gleick
Born (1954-08-01) August 1, 1954 (age 69)
New York City
CitizenshipUnited States
Alma materHarvard University
Notable worksChaos (1987)
Genius (1992)
The Information (2011)

James Gleick (/ɡlɪk/;[1] born August 1, 1954) is an American author and historian of science whose work has chronicled the cultural impact of modern technology. Recognized for his writing about complex subjects through the techniques of narrative nonfiction, he has been called "one of the great science writers of all time".[2][3] He is part of the inspiration for Jurassic Park character Ian Malcolm.[4]

Gleick's books include the international bestsellers Chaos: Making a New Science (1987) and The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood (2011).[5] Three of his books have been Pulitzer Prize[6][7][8] and National Book Award[9][10] finalists; and The Information was awarded the PEN/E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award in 2012 and the Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books 2012. His books have been translated into more than thirty languages.[11]


A native of New York City, Gleick attended Harvard College, where he was an editor of The Harvard Crimson, graduating in 1976 with an A.B. degree in English and linguistics.

He moved to Minneapolis and helped found an alternative weekly newspaper, Metropolis. After its demise a year later, he returned to New York and in 1979 joined the staff of The New York Times. He worked there for ten years as an editor on the metropolitan desk and then as a science reporter.

Among the scientists Gleick profiled in the New York Times Magazine were Douglas Hofstadter, Stephen Jay Gould, Mitchell Feigenbaum, and Benoit Mandelbrot.

His early reporting on Microsoft anticipated the antitrust investigations by the U. S. Department of Justice and the European Commission.

He wrote the "Fast Forward" column in the New York Times Magazine from 1995 to 1999, and his essays charting the growth of the Internet formed the basis of his book What Just Happened.

His work has also appeared in The New Yorker, the Atlantic, Slate, and The Washington Post, and he is a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books.

His first book, Chaos: Making a New Science, reported the development of the new science of chaos and complexity. It made the Butterfly Effect a household term, introduced the Mandelbrot Set and fractal geometry to a broad audience, and sparked popular interest in the subject, influencing such diverse writers as Tom Stoppard (Arcadia) and Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park).[12][13]

The Pipeline[edit]

As a reaction to poor user experience with procmail configuration at Panix, in 1993 Gleick founded The Pipeline, one of the earliest Internet service providers in New York City.[14] The Pipeline was the first ISP to offer a graphical user interface, incorporating e-mail, chat, Usenet, and the World Wide Web, through software for Windows and Mac operating systems.[15][16]

Gleick and business partner Uday Ivatury licensed the Pipeline software to other Internet service providers in the United States and overseas. In 1995 Gleick sold The Pipeline to PSINet, where it was later absorbed into MindSpring and then EarthLink.[17][18]

Aircraft accident[edit]

On 20 December 1997 Gleick was attempting to land his Rutan Long-EZ experimental plane at Greenwood Lake Airport in West Milford, New Jersey, when a build-up of ice in the engine's carburetor caused the aircraft engine to lose power and the plane landed short of the runway into rising terrain.[19] The impact killed Gleick's adopted eight-year-old son, Harry, and left Gleick seriously injured.[20][21]


Gleick's writing style has been described as a combination of "clear mind, magpie-styled research and explanatory verve."[22]

After the publication of Chaos, he collaborated with photographer Eliot Porter on Nature's Chaos and with developers at Autodesk on Chaos: The Software.

In 1989–90 he was the McGraw Distinguished Lecturer at Princeton University.

He was the first editor of The Best American Science Writing series.

His next books included two biographies, Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman, and Isaac Newton, which John Banville said would "surely stand as the definitive study for a very long time to come."[23]

In 2017 Gleick was elected president of the Authors Guild.



Title Year ISBN Publisher Subject matter Interviews and presentations Comments
Chaos: Making a New Science 1987 ISBN 9780670811786 Viking Penguin Chaos theory Revised edition 2008, (ISBN 9780143113454)
Nature's Chaos 1989 ISBN 9780316609425 Viking Penguin Written with Eliot Porter.
Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman[24][25] 1992 ISBN 9780679747048 Pantheon Books Richard Feynman
Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything 1999 ISBN 9780679775485 Pantheon Books Presentation by Gleick on Faster, January 13, 2001, C-SPAN
The Best American Science Writing 2000 2000 ISBN 9780060957360 HarperCollins Panel discussion moderated by Gleick on The Best American Science Writing 2000, October 4, 2000 Editor
What Just Happened: A Chronicle from the Electronic Frontier 2002 ISBN 9780375713910 Pantheon Books Presentation by Gleick on What Just Happened, August 21, 2002, C-SPAN
Isaac Newton[26] 2003 ISBN 9781400032952 Pantheon Books Isaac Newton Presentation by Gleick on Isaac Newton, June 12, 2003, C-SPAN
The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood 2011 ISBN 9780375423727 Pantheon Books After Words interview with Gleick on The Information, June 18, 2011, C-SPAN
Time Travel: A History[27] 2016 ISBN 9780307908797 Pantheon Books Time travel Presentation by Gleick on Time Travel, October 15, 2016, C-SPAN
Presentation by Gleick on Time Travel, November 19, 2016, C-SPAN


  • James Gleick, "The Fate of Free Will" (review of Kevin J. Mitchell, Free Agents: How Evolution Gave Us Free Will, Princeton University Press, 2023, 333 pp.), The New York Review of Books, vol. LXXI, no. 1 (18 January 2024), pp. 27–28, 30. "Agency is what distinguishes us from machines. For biological creatures, reason and purpose come from acting in the world and experiencing the consequences. Artificial intelligences – disembodied, strangers to blood, sweat, and tears – have no occasion for that." (p. 30.)


  1. ^ "James Gleick Interview and Reading" on YouTube
  2. ^ "Study Guide: James Gleick". E Notes.
  3. ^ Doctorow, Cory (March 24, 2011). "James Gleick's tour-de-force: The Information, a natural history of information theory". Boing Boing. Retrieved 29 May 2014.
  4. ^ "Chaos Effect in Jurassic Park". study.com. Retrieved 14 February 2022.
  5. ^ "James Gleick: Bibliography". Amazon.com. Retrieved April 14, 2011.
  6. ^ Gleick, James. "1988 Finalists". Chaos: Making a new Science. The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved 28 May 2011.
  7. ^ Gleick, James. "1993 Finalists". Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman. The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved 28 May 2011.
  8. ^ Gleick, James. "2004 Finalists". Isaac Newton. The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved 28 May 2011.
  9. ^ Gleick, James. "National Book Awards – 1987". Chaos: Making a New Science. National Book Foundation. Retrieved 28 May 2011.
  10. ^ Gleick, James. "National Book Awards – 1992". Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman. National Book Foundation. Retrieved 28 May 2011.
  11. ^ Gleick, James (24 November 2010). "About". Bits in the Ether. Author's website. Retrieved 14 June 2011.
  12. ^ Delaney, Paul (1994). Tom Stoppard in Conversation. University of Michigan Press. p. 224.
  13. ^ Crichton, Michael (1990). Jurassic Park. Alfred A. Knopf. p. 400.
  14. ^ Joel Spolsky (April 2000). "Top Five (Wrong) Reasons You Don't Have Testers".
  15. ^ Batelle, John (November 1994). "Pipeline". Wired. Retrieved March 23, 2009.
  16. ^ Michalski, Jerry (January 31, 1994). "Pipeline: Not Just Another Pretty Face" (PDF). Release 1.0. pp. 9–11. Retrieved March 23, 2009.
  17. ^ Lewis, Peter H. (February 11, 1995). "Performance Systems Buys Pipeline Network". The New York Times. Retrieved March 23, 2009.
  18. ^ "Psinet to Sell Consumer Internet Division". The New York Times. July 2, 1996. Retrieved March 23, 2009.
  19. ^ "FA ID: NYC98FA047". National Transportation Safety Board. US Government. Archived from the original on 17 October 2014. Retrieved 12 October 2014.
  20. ^ "Untitled (NYC98FA047 crash narrative)". National Transportation Safety Board. US Government. Archived from the original on 17 October 2014. Retrieved 12 October 2014.
  21. ^ Rohde, David (21 December 1997). "Plane Crash Kills Son of Best-Selling Author". The New York Times.
  22. ^ "Karen Long on James Gleick's The Information". February 7, 2012. Archived from the original on July 30, 2013. Retrieved May 29, 2014.
  23. ^ Banville, John (August 29, 2003). "The Magus". The Guardian. Retrieved May 29, 2014.
  24. ^ Dyson, Freeman J. (1992). "Review of Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman by James Gleick". Physics Today. 45 (11): 87. doi:10.1063/1.2809877. ISSN 0031-9228.
  25. ^ Bass, Thomas A. (November 1, 1992). "Review of Genius by James Gleick". The Los Angeles Times.
  26. ^ Krantz, Steven G. (December 2003). "Review of Isaac Newton by James Gleick" (PDF). Notices of the AMS. 50 (11): 1404–1406.
  27. ^ Reisert, Sarah (2017). "It's about Time". Distillations. 3 (2): 46–47.

External links[edit]

James Gleick talks about The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood on Bookbits radio.