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Walter Isaacson

Bestselling Biographer & President of the Aspen Institute

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Walter Isaacson is the President and CEO of the Aspen Institute. He has been the Chairman and CEO of CNN and the editor of TIME magazine. Isaacson’s most recent biography, Leonardo da Vinci (Oct. 2017), offers new discoveries about Leonardo’s life and work, weaving a narrative that connects his art to his science. +

He is also the author of The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution (2014), Steve Jobs (2011), Einstein: His Life and Universe (2007), Benjamin Franklin: An American Life (2003), and Kissinger: A Biography (1992), and coauthor of The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made (1986).

Isaacson was born on May 20, 1952, in New Orleans. He is a graduate of Harvard College and of Pembroke College of Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. He began his career at The Sunday Times of London and then the New Orleans Times-Picayune. He joined TIME in 1978 and served as a political correspondent, national editor, and editor of digital media before becoming the magazine’s 14th editor in 1996. He became chairman and CEO of CNN in 2001, and then president and CEO of the Aspen Institute in 2003.

He is chair emeritus of Teach for America, which recruits recent college graduates to teach in underserved communities. From 2005-2007 he was the vice-chair of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, which oversaw the rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina. He was appointed by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the Senate to serve as the chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which runs Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, and other international broadcasts of the United States, a position he held from 2009 to 2012. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and serves on the board of United Airlines, Tulane University, the New Orleans City Planning Commission, the New Orleans Tricentennial Commission, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Society of American Historians, the Carnegie Institution for Science, and My Brother’s Keeper Alliance.

He has honorary degrees from Tufts University, Cooper Union, Franklin College in Switzerland, University of New Orleans, University of South Carolina, City University of New York (Hunter College), Pomona College, Lehigh University, Washington College, and Duke University. --

Topics & Categories
  • AI & Digital Transformation
  • Business Management & Strategy
  • Creativity & Innovation
  • Inspiring Stories
  • Leadership
  • Science & Technology

The Innovators: How a Group of Inventors, Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution  +

In this presentation from his new book, The Innovators, which is destined to be the standard history of the digital revolution and a guide to how innovation really works, Walter Isaacson tells the story of the people who created the computer and the Internet. What talents allowed certain inventors and entrepreneurs to turn their disruptive ideas into realities? What led to their creative leaps? Why did some succeed and others fail? Isaacson begins with Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron's daughter, who pioneered computer programming in the 1840s and explores the fascinating personalities that created our current digital revolution, such as Vannevar Bush, Alan Turing, John von Neumann, J.C.R. Licklider, Doug Engelbart, Robert Noyce, Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs, Tim Berners-Lee, and Larry Page. He tells the story of how their minds worked, what made them so creative and how their ability to collaborate and master the art of teamwork made them even more creative. For an era that seeks to foster innovation, creativity, and teamwork, Isaacson reveals to audiences how these renowned figures actually made it happen.  --

Steve Jobs: The Story of a True Visionary  +

Drawing from over forty interviews that Walter Isaacson conducted with Steve Jobs, Isaacson paints a vivid picture of the technology maverick that changed the industry forever. At a time when America is seeking ways to sustain its innovative edge, and when societies around the world are trying to build digital-age economies, Jobs stands as the ultimate icon of inventiveness and applied imagination. How was Jobs able to transform Apple from a niche computer maker to one of the biggest companies in the world? And where did Jobs' philosophy of connecting creativity with technology come from? With unparalleled knowledge and candor, Isaacson shares the roller-coaster life story of one of our generation's most important tech icons, explaining just how this searingly intense personality was able to transform the way we do business.  --

Albert Einstein: His Life and Universe  +

Albert Einstein serves as the ultimate example of timeless genius - yet for all we know about his legacy, we know little about the man himself. Going beyond Einstein's humanity changing work, Walter Isaacson creates a portrait of Einstein not just as a scientist, but as a husband, father, friend, and thinker. To research his biography on Einstein, Isaacson pored over the enormous volume of his personal correspondence that had previously been barred from the public, giving Isaacson a unique view into the man's life. Why did Einstein refer to his teachers as "drill sergeants"? And how did the history of Einstein's era - from World War I to the Cold War - affect his work? In this fascinating talk, Walter Isaacson brings his deep understanding of Einstein to the stage, reminding us why this charismatic, passionate, outspoken and unapologetic genius remains one of the most celebrated figures of the 20th century.  --

Benjamin Franklin: An American Life  +

Patriot. Diplomat. Inventor. Bohemian. All of these words describe Benjamin Franklin, one of the most magnetic personalities of the past 300 years. However, the revolutionary leader represents a political tradition that has been all but forgotten in today's world of divisive bipartisan politics. Stressing pragmatism over moralism, religious tolerance over fundamentalist rigidity, and social mobility of class privilege, Franklin was one of the most polarizing figures of his time. Esteemed biographer Walter Isaacson paints a vivid picture of one of America's greatest citizens, showing audiences why his ideas and principles are just as valid today as they were in 1776. With a sharp wit, unsurpassed knowledge and refreshing candor, Isaacson aims to help audiences better understand Franklin's life, motivations, and legacy.  --

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