Walter Isaacson (born May 20, 1952)
is an American
author, journalist, and professor. He has been the President and CEO of the Aspen Institute
, a nonpartisan policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.
, the chair and CEO of CNN
, and the editor of ''Time
Born in New Orleans
, he attended Harvard University
and the University of Oxford
as a Rhodes scholar
at Pembroke College
. He is the author of ''The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race
'' (2021), ''Leonardo da Vinci'' (2017), ''The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution
'' (2014), ''Steve Jobs
'' (2011), ''American Sketches
'' (2009), ''Einstein: His Life and Universe
'' (2007), ''Benjamin Franklin: An American Life
'' (2003), and ''Kissinger: A Biography
'' (1992). He is the co-author with Evan Thomas
of ''The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made
Isaacson is a professor at Tulane University
and an advisory partner at Perella Weinberg Partners
, a New York City-based financial services firm.
[ He was vice chair of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, which oversaw the rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina, chaired the government board that runs Voice of America, and was a member of the Defense Innovation Board.
Early life and education
Isaacson was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of Irwin and Betty Lee (Seff) Isaacson.
He attended New Orleans' Isidore Newman School, where he was student body president, Deep Springs College for the Telluride Association Summer Program (TASP), and Harvard University, where he majored in History and Literature and graduated in 1974. At Harvard, Isaacson was the president of the Signet Society, member of the ''Harvard Lampoon'', and resident of Lowell House. He later attended the University of Oxford as a Rhodes scholar at Pembroke College, where he studied Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) and graduated with First-Class Honours.
Isaacson began his career in journalism at ''The Sunday Times'' in London, followed by a position with the ''New Orleans Times-Picayune''. He joined ''Time'' magazine in 1978, serving as the magazine's political correspondent, national editor, and editor of new media before becoming the magazine's 14th editor in 1996.
Isaacson became chairman and CEO of CNN in July 2001, replacing Tom Johnson, and only two months later guided CNN through the events of 9/11.
Shortly after his appointment at CNN, Isaacson attracted attention for seeking the views of Republican Party leaders on Capitol Hill regarding criticisms that CNN broadcast content that was unfair to Republicans or conservatives. He was quoted in ''Roll Call'' magazine as saying: "I was trying to reach out to a lot of Republicans who feel that CNN has not been as open to covering Republicans, and I wanted to hear their concerns." The CEO's conduct was criticized by the Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) organization, which said that Isaacson's "pandering" behavior was endowing conservative politicians with power over CNN.
In January 2003, he announced that he would step down as president at CNN to become president of the Aspen Institute. [ Jim Walton replaced Isaacson as president of CNN.] [
Isaacson served as the president and CEO of the Aspen Institute from 2003 until 2018, when he announced that he would step down to become a professor of history at Tulane University and an advisory partner at the New York City financial services firm Perella Weinberg Partners.] In November 2017, the Aspen Institute named Dan Porterfield, the president of Franklin and Marshall College, as Isaacson's successor.
In March 2017, Isaacson launched a podcast with Dell Technologies called ''Trailblazers'', which focuses on technology's effects on business. In 2018, Isaacson was named as a cohost of "Amanpour & Company," a new show on PBS and CNN that replaced "The Charlie Rose Show."
Isaacson is the author of multiple published books including ''American Sketches'' (2009), ''Einstein: His Life and Universe'' (2007), ''Benjamin Franklin: An American Life'' (2003) and ''Kissinger: A Biography'' (1992). He additionally co-authored with Evan Thomas the work ''The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made'' (1986).
On October 24, 2011, ''Steve Jobs'', Isaacson's authorized biography of Apple Inc.'s Jobs, was published by Simon & Schuster, only several weeks after Jobs' death. It became an international best-seller, breaking all records for sales of a biography. The book was based on over forty interviews with Jobs over a two-year period up until shortly before his death, and on conversations with friends, family members, and business rivals of the entrepreneur.
In October 2014, Isaacson published ''The Innovators: How a Group of Inventors, Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution'', which explores the history of the key technological innovations that are prominent in the digital revolution, most notably the parallel developments of the computer and the Internet. It became a ''New York Times'' bestseller. Writing for the ''New York Times'', Janet Maslin described the author as "a kindred spirit to the visionaries and enthusiasts" who Isaacson wrote about.
He is the editor of ''Profiles in Leadership: Historians on the Elusive Quality of Greatness'' (2010, W. W. Norton).
His biography of Leonardo da Vinci was published on October 17, 2017, to positive reviews from critics. In August 2017, Paramount Pictures won a bidding war against Universal Pictures for the rights to adapt Isaacson's biography of da Vinci. The studio bought the rights under its deal with Leonardo DiCaprio's Appian Way Productions, which said that it planned to produce the film with DiCaprio as the star. Screenwriter John Logan (The Aviator, Gladiator) has been tapped to pen the script.
In October 2005, the Governor of Louisiana, Kathleen Blanco, appointed Isaacson vice chairman of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, a board that oversaw spending on the recovery from Hurricane Katrina. In December 2007, he was appointed by President George W. Bush to the chairman of the U.S.-Palestinian Partnership, which seeks to create economic and educational opportunities in the Palestinian territories. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appointed him vice-chair of the Partners for a New Beginning, which encourages private-sector investments and partnerships in the Muslim world.
He also served as the co-chair of the U.S.-Vietnamese Dialogue on Agent Orange, which in January 2008 announced completion of a project to contain the dioxin left behind by the U.S. at the Da Nang air base and plans to build health centers and a dioxin laboratory in the affected regions. In 2008, he was appointed to be a member of the Advisory Committee of the National Institutes of Health. In 2009, he was appointed by President Obama to be Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which runs Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, and the other international broadcasts of the U.S. government; he served until January 2012. In 2014, he was appointed by New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu to be the co-chair of the New Orleans Tricentennial Commission, which is planning the city's 300th-anniversary commemoration in 2018. In 2015, he was appointed to the board of My Brother's Keeper Alliance, which seeks to carry out President Obama's anti-poverty and youth opportunity initiatives. In 2016, he was appointed by Mayor Mitch Landrieu and confirmed by the City Council to be a member of the New Orleans City Planning Commission. He is a member of the U.S. Department of Defense Innovation Advisory Board. In 2018, he was appointed by New Orleans mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell to be co-chair of her transition team.
Isaacson is an advisory partner at Perella Weinberg, a financial services firm. He is the chairman emeritus of the board of Teach for America and is on the boards of United Airlines, Halliburton Labs, The New Orleans Advocate/Times-Picayune, New Schools New Orleans, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Carnegie Institution for Science and the Society of American Historians, of which he served as president in 2012.
In March 2019, Isaacson became the editor-at-large and senior adviser for Arcadia Publishing, where he will be promoting books for the company as well as editing, new strategy development, and partnerships.
Isaacson is an Associate of the History of Science Department and a member of the Lowell House Senior Common Room at Harvard University. He is also an Honorary Fellow of Pembroke College, Oxford. Isaacson teaches a course at Tulane called History Of the Digital Revolution, an open seminar filled with discussion about technology, culture, and the progression of society.
Isaacson's book ''Steve Jobs'' about the life of the entrepreneur, earned Isaacson the 2012 Gerald Loeb Award.
In 2012, he was selected as one of the ''Time'' 100, the magazine's list of the most influential people in the world.
Isaacson is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and was awarded its 2013 Benjamin Franklin Medal. He is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society and an Honorary Fellow of Pembroke College, Oxford.
In 2014, the National Endowment for the Humanities selected Isaacson for the Jefferson Lecture, the U.S. federal government's highest honor for achievement in the humanities. The title of Isaacson's lecture was "The Intersection of the Humanities and the Sciences."
He has honorary degrees from Tufts University, Cooper Union, William & Mary, Franklin University Switzerland, University of New Orleans, University of South Carolina, City University of New York (Hunter College), Pomona College, Lehigh University, Duke University, and Colorado Mountain College, where the Isaacson School of Media and Communications is named after him. He was the 2015 recipient of The Nichols-Chancellor's Medal at Vanderbilt University.
* ''Kissinger: A Biography''. (Simon & Schuster, 1992)
* ''Benjamin Franklin: An American Life''. (Simon & Schuster, 2003)
* ''Einstein: His Life and Universe''. (Simon & Schuster, 2007)
* ''American Sketches''. (Simon & Schuster, 2009)
* ''Steve Jobs''. (Simon & Schuster, 2011)
* ''The Innovators: How a Group of Inventors, Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution''. (Simon & Schuster, 2014)
* ''Leonardo Da Vinci''. (Simon & Schuster, 2017)
* ''The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race''. (Simon & Schuster, 2021)
* New Yorkers in journalism
* U.S.-Vietnam Dialogue Group on Agent Orange/Dioxin
* Partners for a New Beginning
at Tulane University
Category:20th-century American biographers
Category:20th-century American journalists
Category:20th-century American male writers
Category:21st-century American biographers
Category:21st-century American journalists
Category:Alumni of Pembroke College, Oxford
Category:American historians of science
Category:American magazine editors
Category:American male journalists
Category:American male non-fiction writers
Category:American nonprofit chief executives
Category:American Rhodes Scholars
Category:American technology journalists
Category:The Atlantic (magazine) people
Category:Fellows of the Royal Society of Arts
Category:Gerald Loeb Award winners for Business Books
Category:The Harvard Lampoon alumni
Category:Isidore Newman School alumni
Category:Jewish American historians
Category:Jewish American journalists
Category:Leonardo da Vinci scholars
Category:Time (magazine) people
Category:Writers from New Orleans