Robert D. Richardson

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Robert D. Richardson (born 1934 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin) is an American historian, and biographer.

Early life[edit]

Richardson was brought up in Medford, Massachusetts and Concord, Massachusetts. He graduated from Exeter, in 1952,[1] and from Harvard University, with a PhD.


He taught at the University of Denver, Harvard University, Yale University, The University of Colorado, Queens College, City University of New York, Sichuan University, Wesleyan University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Personal life[edit]

He was married, first to Elizabeth Hall; they have two daughters.

He married Annie Dillard, after she wrote him a fan letter about Henry Thoreau: A Life of the Mind.[2] They have three stepdaughters.

He is program chair for New Voices, at the Key West Literary Seminar.[3]




In the James book he even pauses, endearingly, at a tricky philosophical intersection, and allows, “This is not easy stuff.” These are intellectual biographies, which means that Richardson attempted to read everything his subjects read—which also means that he works just as hard as these death-haunted, pressed-for-time 19th-century giants who fascinate him. It's a formidable combination. He's a writer who rewards your trust, for the same reasons we learned to trust him on those sailboats far from shore—he knows what he's doing, and because he's restless, curious and fearless, he can take you where you might never travel on your own.[4]

To trace the subtle reciprocities between philosophizing and living is the ambitious task that Robert D. Richardson sets himself in his absorbing, if also frustrating, biography William James: In the Maelstrom of American Modernism. [5]


  1. ^ "Robert Richardson '52", The Exeter Bulletin, Eric Gershon, Spring 1999
  2. ^ MARY CANTWELL (April 26, 1992). "A Pilgrim's Progress". The New York Times. 
  3. ^ Barbara Chai (February 2, 2008). "Robert D. Richardson on Attracting New Writers to Key West Seminar". The Wall Street Journal. 
  4. ^ HAL CROWTHER (Spring 2007). "Long Walks on the Wild Side—Robert D. Richardson, Biographer". Blackbird. 
  5. ^ REBECCA NEWBERGER GOLDSTEIN (December 17, 2006). "The Pragmatist". The New York Times. 

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