Robert Darnton

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Robert Darnton
Darnton in 2006
Darnton in 2006
Born (1939-05-10) May 10, 1939 (age 83)
New York City, US
OccupationHistorian, librarian
EducationPhilips Academy
Alma mater
SubjectCultural history, 18th-century France, history of the book
Notable worksThe Great Cat Massacre
SpouseNina Darnton

Robert Choate Darnton (born May 10, 1939) is an American cultural historian and academic librarian who specializes in 18th-century France.

He was director of the Harvard University Library from 2007 to 2016.


Darnton was born in New York City. He graduated from Phillips Academy in 1957 and Harvard University in 1960, attended Oxford University on a Rhodes scholarship, and earned a PhD (DPhil) in history from Oxford in 1964, where he studied with Richard Cobb, among others. The title of his thesis was Trends in radical propaganda on the eve of the French Revolution (1782–1788). He worked as reporter at The New York Times from 1964 to 1965. Joining the Princeton University faculty in 1968, he was appointed Shelby Cullom Davis Professor of European History and was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 1982. He served as President of the American Historical Association in 1999.[1]

On July 1, 2007, he transferred to emeritus status at Princeton, and was appointed Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and director of the Harvard University Library, succeeding Sidney Verba.[2] In January 2016, Ann Blair succeeded him as the Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor.[3]

In 1983, he delivered the Huizinga Lecture in Leiden, the Netherlands, under the title The Meaning of Mother Goose.

Darnton is a pioneer in the field of the history of the book. He is writing about electronic publishing. He is founder of the Gutenberg-e program, sponsored by Mellon Foundation.

Darnton is a trustee of the New York Public Library.[4]

Awards and honors[edit]

His first major prize was the Leo Gershoy Award for The Business of Enlightenment in 1979. He was later elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1980 and the American Philosophical Society in 1989.[5][6] He has also received the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism for The Forbidden Best-Sellers of Pre-Revolutionary France (New York: W.W. Norton, 1996).

In 1999, he was named a Chevalier of the Légion d'Honneur, an award given by the French government, in recognition of his work. In 2004 he was awarded the Gutenberg prize by the International Gutenberg Society [de].

In 2005, he received an award for distinguished achievement from the American Printing History Association.[7]

Prof. Darnton with prof. Hans Tuzzi at Festivaletteratura of Mantua, September 8, 2018.

On February 13, 2012, he was awarded the National Humanities Medal 2011 by President Barack Obama, for his determination to make knowledge accessible to everyone.

In 2013, he was awarded the Prix mondial Cino Del Duca lifetime achievement award.[8]

In 2016, Darnton received an honorary doctorate from the Faculty of Arts at Uppsala University, Sweden.[9]


His brother is the retired New York Times editor and author John Darnton, and his father was the war correspondent Byron Darnton.


External video
video icon George Washington’s False Teeth, August 31, 20031, C-SPAN
video icon Presentation by Darnton on The Case for Books, February 3, 2010, C-SPAN

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Robert Darnton; Liz Townsend; Robert Townsend (2000). "AHA Presidential Addresses: Robert Darnton, 1999". American Historical Association. Retrieved August 3, 2011.
  2. ^ Albanese, Andrew (May 25, 2007). "Princeton's Robert Darnton To Succeed Verba as Harvard Library Director". Library Journal. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007.
  3. ^ "Ann Blair named University Professor". Harvard Gazette. November 23, 2015. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
  4. ^ Taylor, Kate. "Amherst President is Expected to Be Named Chief of the New York Public Library," New York Times. October 6, 2010.
  5. ^ "Robert Choate Darnton". American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Retrieved April 19, 2022.
  6. ^ "APS Member History". Retrieved April 19, 2022.
  7. ^ Books reveal volumes about times past, Jennifer Greenstein Altmann, Princeton Weekly Bulletin, March 28, 2005.
  8. ^ "Robert Darnton Awarded Prix Mondial Cino Del Duca". Harvard University Library. 2013. Retrieved July 23, 2013.
  9. ^ "Faculty of Arts awards honorary doctorates – Uppsala University, Sweden". Retrieved February 2, 2016.

External links[edit]