Walter Isaacson Biography & Facts
Walter Seff 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, Louisiana, he attended Harvard University and the University of Oxford as a Rhodes scholar at Pembroke College. He is the co-author with Evan Thomas of The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made (1986) and the author of Kissinger: A Biography (1992), Benjamin Franklin: An American Life (2003), Einstein: His Life and Universe (2007), American Sketches (2009), Steve Jobs (2011), The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution (2014), Leonardo da Vinci (2017) and The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race (2021).
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 Betty "Betsy" Lee (née Seff) and Irwin Isaacson. His father was a "kindly Jewish distracted humanist engineer with a reverence for science" and his mother Betsy was a realtor. 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, a member of the Harvard Lampoon, and a 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 & 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.His book The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race was published in March 2021 by Simon & Schuster. It is a biography of Jennifer Doudna, the winner of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her work on the CRISPR system of gene editing. The book debuted at number one on The New York Times nonfiction best-seller list for the week ending March 13, 2021. Publishers Weekly called it a "gripping account of a great scientific advancement and of the dedicated scientists who realized it."In August 2021, entrepreneur Elon Musk announced that Isaacson was in the process of writing his biography.
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.... Discover the Walter Isaacson popular books. Find the top 100 most popular Walter Isaacson books.