Ron Chernow
Ronald Chernow is an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 biographer. He is the author of Washington: A Life, Alexander Hamilton, The House of Morgan
The House of Morgan
The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance is a non-fiction book by Ron Chernow, published in 1990. It traces the history of four generations of the J.P...

, and Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr., among other works. He has won the Pulitzer prize, the National Book Award and other prestigious awards for his books, which have often been best-sellers.

Life and career

Born in Brooklyn
Brooklyn is the most populous of New York City's five boroughs, with nearly 2.6 million residents, and the second-largest in area. Since 1896, Brooklyn has had the same boundaries as Kings County, which is now the most populous county in New York State and the second-most densely populated...

, New York, Chernow graduated with honors from Yale University
Yale University
Yale University is a private, Ivy League university located in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Founded in 1701 in the Colony of Connecticut, the university is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States...

 and Cambridge University with degrees in English literature
English literature
English literature is the literature written in the English language, including literature composed in English by writers not necessarily from England; for example, Robert Burns was Scottish, James Joyce was Irish, Joseph Conrad was Polish, Dylan Thomas was Welsh, Edgar Allan Poe was American, J....

. He then began a career as a freelance journalist. From 1973 to 1982, he published more than 60 articles in national publications. In the mid-1980s, he began work at the Twentieth Century Fund
The Century Foundation
The Century Foundation is an US progressive think tank. It was founded as a nonprofit public policy research institution on the belief that the prosperity and security of the United States depends on a mix of effective government, open democracy, and free markets. The Foundation is headquartered...

, a think tank based in New York City, where he was director of financial policy studies. Chernow's wife Valerie, a sociologist, died in 2006.

Chernow is a current (2010) member and past president of the Board of Trustees for PEN American Center
PEN American Center
PEN American Center , founded in 1922 and based in New York City, works to advance literature, to defend free expression, and to foster international literary fellowship. The Center has a membership of 3,300 writers, editors, and translators...

, the eastern U.S. branch of International PEN
International PEN
PEN International , the worldwide association of writers, was founded in London in 1921 to promote friendship and intellectual co-operation among writers everywhere....

, an international literary and human rights organization.


His first book, The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance
The House of Morgan
The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance is a non-fiction book by Ron Chernow, published in 1990. It traces the history of four generations of the J.P...

was published in 1990 and won the National Book Award
National Book Award
The National Book Awards are a set of American literary awards. Started in 1950, the Awards are presented annually to American authors for literature published in the current year. In 1989 the National Book Foundation, a nonprofit organization which now oversees and manages the National Book...

 for nonfiction. The book traced the history of four generations of the J.P. Morgan financial empire. The reviewer for the New York Times Book Review said, "As a portrait of finance, politics and the world of avarice and ambition on Wall Street, the book has the movement and tension of an epic novel. It is, quite simply, a tour de force."

The Warburgs, Chernow's 1993 account of the German-Jewish Warburg
Warburg family
The Warburg family is a financial dynasty of German Jewish origin, noted for their accomplishments in physics, classical music, art history, pharmacology, physiology, finance, private equity and philanthropy. They are believed to be descended from the Venetian Jewish del Banco family, in the early...

 banking family, was awarded the Columbia Business School
Columbia Business School
Columbia Business School is the business school of Columbia University in Manhattan, New York City. It was established in 1916 to provide business training and professional preparation for undergraduate and graduate Columbia University students...

's George S. Eccles Prize for Excellence in Economic Writing. The book was named as one of the year's twelve best nonfiction books by the American Library Association
American Library Association
The American Library Association is a non-profit organization based in the United States that promotes libraries and library education internationally. It is the oldest and largest library association in the world, with more than 62,000 members....

 and a Notable Book by The New York Times.

Chernow's 1997 collection of essays, The Death of the Banker, touched upon his earlier writings and chronicled "the decline and fall of the great financial dynasties and the triumph of the small investor."


In 1998 Chernow published his biography of John D. Rockefeller
John D. Rockefeller
John Davison Rockefeller was an American oil industrialist, investor, and philanthropist. He was the founder of the Standard Oil Company, which dominated the oil industry and was the first great U.S. business trust. Rockefeller revolutionized the petroleum industry and defined the structure of...

, Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. The book reflected Chernow's continued interest in financial history, especially when shaped by compelling and influential individuals. The biography was selected by Time magazine and The New York Times as one of the year's ten best books. Time called it "one of the great American biographies."


In 2004, Chernow published his 832-page biography, Alexander Hamilton. The biography won the inaugural George Washington Book Prize
George Washington Book Prize
The George Washington Book Prize was instituted in 2005 and is awarded annually to the best book on America's founding era, especially those that have the potential to advance broad public understanding of American history. It is administered by Washington College’s C.V...

 for early American history.

The reviews in the major scholarly journals were favorable. Professor Stephen B. Presser of Northwestern University wrote:
"This book is one of those happy rarities: a popular biography that should also delight scholars....This is the kind of synthetic narrative history and biography that is rarely done to such high standards and is clearly one of the best introductions to the American formative era available. Moreover, the way Chernow integrates international affairs, domestic politics, economic and constitutional theory, and astute psychological analysis is nothing short of wondrous."


Chernow's 904-page Washington: A Life was released on October 5, 2010 (ISBN 978-1594202667). It won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography (2011) and the American History Book Prize
American History Book Prize
The New-York Historical Society American History Book Prize or simply the American History Book Prize is an American literary award given annually by the New-York Historical Society for an adult non-fiction book on American history or biography copyrighted in the year of the award "that is...

. Professor Gordon S. Wood
Gordon S. Wood
Gordon S. Wood is Alva O. Way University Professor and Professor of History Emeritus at Brown University and the recipient of the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for History for The Radicalism of the American Revolution. His book The Creation of the American Republic, 1776–1787 won a 1970 Bancroft Prize...

, renowned scholar of the Founding era, wrote:
"The best, most comprehensive, and most balanced single-volume biography of Washington ever written... One comes away from the book feeling that Washington has finally become comprehensible... [Chernow's] understanding of human nature is extraordinary and that is what makes his biography so powerful."

Future Projects

In April 2011, Chernow signed a deal to write a comprehensive biography on Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant was the 18th President of the United States as well as military commander during the Civil War and post-war Reconstruction periods. Under Grant's command, the Union Army defeated the Confederate military and ended the Confederate States of America...

. Chernow explained his transition from writing about George Washington to Grant: "Makes some sense as progression. Towering general of Revolution to towering general of Civil War. Both two-term presidents, though with very different results."

External links

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