Walter Isaacson (born May 20, 1952) is an American writer and
journalist. He is the President and CEO of the Aspen Institute, a
nonpartisan educational and policy studies organization based in
Washington, D.C., and University Professor of History at Tulane
University. He has been the chairman and CEO of Cable News Network
(CNN) and Managing Editor of Time. He has written biographies of
Leonardo da Vinci, Steve Jobs, Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, and
1 Early life and education
6 See also
8 External links
Early life and education
Isaacson was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of Irwin and
Betty Lee (Seff) Isaacson. His father was a “kindly Jewish
distracted humanist engineer with a reverence for science” and his
mother was a real estate broker. Isaacson attended New Orleans'
Isidore Newman School, where he was Student Body President. He
Deep Springs College
Deep Springs College for the
Telluride Association Summer
Program (TASP) before graduating from
Harvard University in 1974,
where he majored in History and Literature. 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
Isaacson began his career in journalism at The Sunday Times of 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
CNN has not been as open to covering Republicans, and I wanted to
hear their concerns." The CEO's conduct was criticized by the
left-leaning 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 2017, 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
In March 2017, Isaacson launched a podcast with Dell Technologies
called Trailblazers, which focuses on technology's effects on
Isaacson is the author of 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 (1986).
On October 24, 2011, Steve Jobs, Isaacson's authorized biography of
Apple Computer'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
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
New York Times
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
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
Isaacson at a State Department briefing in 2008
In October 2005, Louisiana Governor
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
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 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
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
LaToya Cantrell to be co-chair of her transition
Isaacson is the chairman emeritus of the board of Teach for America.
He is on the boards of United Airlines, Tulane University, Overseers
of Harvard University, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Rockefeller
Carnegie Institution for Science
Carnegie Institution for Science and the Society of
American Historians, of which he served as president in 2012.
Isaacson teaches a course at Tulane called History Of the Digital
Revolution - students claim his class is an open seminar filled with
discussion about technology, culture, and the progression of society.
Walter Isaacson at
TechCrunch Disrupt 2014
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
Royal Society of Arts
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
American Philosophical Society and an Honorary
Fellow of Pembroke College, Oxford.
In 2014, the
National Endowment for the Humanities
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 school of media and
communications is named after him. He was the 2015 recipient of
The Nichols-Chancellor's Medal at Vanderbilt University.
The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made (1986, Simon &
Schuster, ISBN 978-1451683226) – co-authored with Evan Thomas
Kissinger: A Biography (1992, Simon & Schuster,
Benjamin Franklin: An American Life (2003, Simon & Schuster,
Einstein: His Life and Universe (2007, Simon & Schuster,
American Sketches (2009, Simon & Schuster,
Steve Jobs (2011, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 978-1451648539)
The Innovators: How a Group of Inventors, Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks
Created the Digital Revolution (2014, Simon & Schuster,
Leonardo Da Vinci (2017, Simon & Schuster,
U.S.-Vietnam Dialogue Group on Agent Orange/Dioxin
Partners for a New Beginning
^ a b c Robin Pogrebin, "At Work and at Play, Time's Editor Seeks to
Keep Magazine Vigorous at 75", New York Times, March 9, 1998.
^ a b c Millie Ball, "Steve Jobs' biographer is hometown son Walter
Isaacson," The Times-Picayune, December 11, 2011.
^ "Family of Sid Salinger". Sid Salinger. Retrieved February 1,
^ National Endowment for the Humanities: " AWARDS & HONORS: 2014
JEFFERSON LECTURER: Walter Isaacson" retrieved August 30, 2016.
^ William C. Skinner (4 May 2016). "Q&A with Walter S. Isaacson".
The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved 5 July 2016.
^ Paul D. Colford (15 November 2000). "Moving up the Ladder Big Time".
New York Daily News. Retrieved 5 July 2016.
^ a b Cook, John (January 21, 2003). "CNN's turmoil continues over
identity, ratings". The Chicago Tribune. Retrieved March 17,
^ a b "CNN: Head of news network to step down". The Chicago Tribune.
January 14, 2003. Retrieved March 17, 2016.
^ Eason Jordan (15 August 2001). "New
CNN Chief Trying to Please GOP
Elite". FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting). Fairness &
Accuracy In Reporting. Retrieved 18 January 2015.
Associated Press (6 August 2001). "New
CNN chairman meets with GOP
critics". USA Today. Retrieved 18 January 2015.
Missing or empty title= (help)
^ Thompson, Krissah (2017-11-30). "
Aspen Institute names Dan
Porterfield, president of Franklin and Marshall College, as its new
leader". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved
Walter Isaacson Is Getting Into Podcasting With a Series About
Technology". Retrieved 2017-07-01.
^ "Walter Isaacson". Author page. Simon & Schuster. Retrieved 19
^ Rene Lynch, "
Steve Jobs biography: Release date moves up, skyrockets
to No. 1", Los Angeles Times, October 6, 2011.
^ Brad Stone, "Jobs Is Said to Assist With Book on His Life", New York
Times, February 15, 2010.
^ Eyder Peralta, "
Steve Jobs Authorizes Biography; It's Due Out Early
2012", NPR, April 11, 2011.
^ Kara Swisher, "New Jobs Bio Cover Is All Apple With Pub Date of
November", All Things Digital, August 15, 2011.
^ Walter Isaacson, "The Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs,"
Harvard Business Review, April 2012.
^ Rachel Pickering (29 October 2014). "The Innovators: How a Group of
Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter
Isaacson". Maroon Weekly. Campus Press LP. Retrieved 18 January
Janet Maslin (8 October 2014). "Heralds of the Digital Tomorrow".
The New York Times. Retrieved 18 January 2015.
^ Janet Maslin, "The Scale of Einstein, From Faith to Formulas," New
York Times, April 9, 2007.
^ "Bookmarks reviews of
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson". LitHub.
Retrieved October 19, 2017.
^ Isaacson, Walter (2017-10-17). Leonardo da Vinci. Simon &
Schuster. ISBN 9781501139154.
^ "President Bush Meets with U.S.-Palestinian Public-Private
Partnership", White House press release, December 2007.
^ "Partners for a New Beginning", state.gov, April 26, 2010.
^ Plan addresses
Agent Orange legacy in Vietnam - World news - World
environment NBC News
^ "President Obama More Key Administration Posts" Archived November
20, 2009, at the Wayback Machine., White House press release, November
^ Alex Woodward, "Mayor Landrieu unveils New Orleans' tricentennial
group," Best of New Orleans, December 1, 2014.
^ My Brother's Keeper Fact Sheet
New Orleans Times-Picayune, "
New Orleans Native Walter Isaacson
Appointed to CPC" 
^ SAH, Executive board
^ Madeleine K. Albright, "The World's 100 Most Influential People:
2012", Time, April 18, 2012.
Benjamin Franklin Medal Presentation To Walter Isaacson", RSA
United States, October 2013.
^ Chris Waddington, "Best-selling biographer
Walter Isaacson will
Jefferson Lecture in 2014" Archived February 4,
2014, at the Wayback Machine., Times-Picayune, January 28, 2014.
^ "Connect your passion to something that matters, Issacson urges
Vanderbilt graduating seniors".
^ Maslin, Janet (3 July 2003). "Review of Benjamin Franklin: An
American Life by Walter Isaacson". NY Times.
^ "Review of Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson".
Kirkus Reviews. 4 July 1983.
^ Maslin, Janet (9 April 2007). "Review of Einstein: His Life and
Times by Walter Isaacson". NY Times.
^ "Review of Einstein: His Life and Times by Walter Isaacson". Kirkus
Reviews. 10 April 2007.
^ Kafka, Alexander C. (12 October 2017). "Review of Leonardo da Vinci
by Walter Isaacson". The Washington Post.
Aspen Institute biography of Walter Isaacson
Appearances on C-SPAN
Walter Isaacson on Twitter
ISNI: 0000 0001 2131 2482
BNF: cb134841423 (data)