March 3, 1949
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Occupation||Writer, journalist, historian, biographer|
Pembroke College, Cambridge
The House of Morgan|
Washington: A Life
Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.
Pulitzer Prize for Biography |
American History Book Prize
National Book Award for Nonfiction
|Spouse||Valerie S. Chernow (m. 1979; wid. 2006)|
Ronald "Ron" Chernow (born March 3, 1949) is an American writer, journalist, historian, and biographer. He has written bestselling and award-winning biographies of historical figures from the world of business, finance, and American politics.
Historian Andrew Cayton said, "Chernow is no ordinary writer. Like his popular biographies of John D. Rockefeller and Alexander Hamilton, his Washington while long, is vivid and well paced. If Chernow's sense of historical context is sometimes superficial, his understanding of psychology is acute and his portraits of individuals memorable."
He won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Biography and the 2011 American History Book Prize for his book, Washington: A Life. He is also the recipient of the National Book Award for Nonfiction for his 1990 book, The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance. His biographies of Alexander Hamilton and John D. Rockefeller Sr. were both nominated for National Book Critics Circle Awards, while The Warburgs: The Twentieth-Century Odyssey of a Remarkable Jewish Family was honored with the 1993 George S. Eccles Prize for Excellence in Economic Writing. As a freelance journalist, he has written over 60 articles in national publications.
Ronald Chernow was born on March 3, 1949, in Brooklyn, New York. His father Israel was the owner of a discount store and creator of a stock brokerage firm; his mother Ruth was a bookkeeper. Chernow graduated with honors from Yale College (B.A. summa cum laude, 1970) and Cambridge University (M.Phil., 1972 with degrees in English literature). He began but did not finish a PhD program. He says that in politics he is a "disgruntled Democrat" and gives his religion as "Jewish, though more in the breach than the observance."
He married Valerie S. Chernow in 1979; she died in 2006.
Chernow began his career as a freelance journalist. He wrote more than 60 articles in national newspapers and magazines from 1973 to 1982. In the mid-1980s, he put his writing pursuits aside when he began serving as the director of financial policy studies with the Twentieth Century Fund, which is based in New York City. In 1986, he left the organization and refocused his efforts on writing. In addition to his background writing nonfiction works and biographies, Chernow continues to contribute articles to The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. He has also provided commentary on business, politics, and finance on national radio and television shows, while additionally appearing as an expert in documentary films.
Business and finance
The House of Morgan
In 1990, Chernow published his first book, The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance, which traces 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 House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance was honored with the National Book Award for Nonfiction.
In 1993, Chernow published The Warburgs: The Twentieth-Century Odyssey of a Remarkable Jewish Family, which is an account of the Warburg family, who immigrated to the US from Germany in 1938. The Warburg family was a prominent financial dynasty of German Jewish descent, known for their accomplishments in physics, classical music, art history, pharmacology, physiology, finance, private equity and philanthropy. The book was awarded the Columbia Business School's George S. Eccles Prize for Excellence in Economic Writing. It was additionally named as one of the year's ten best works by the American Library Association and a Notable Book by The New York Times.
The Death of the Banker
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".
Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.
In 1998, Chernow published Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr., which was selected by Time Magazine and The New York Times as one of the year's ten best books. Rockefeller was a prominent figure in American business. He was an industrialist, philanthropist, and the founder of the Standard Oil Company. The book reflected Chernow's continued interest in financial history, especially when shaped by compelling and influential individuals. The book remained on "The New York Times Best Seller list" for 16 weeks. Time Magazine named the book as "one of the great American biographies".
In 2004, Chernow published Alexander Hamilton. The biography was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award and was named as the winner of the inaugural George Washington Book Prize for early American history. It remained on "The New York Times Best Seller list" for three months. In his review for the Journal of American History, Stephen B. Presser, who is a member of the faculty 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 and the American History Book Prize. Professor Gordon S. Wood, 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."
Ulysses S. Grant
In 2011, Chernow signed a deal to write a comprehensive biography on Ulysses S. Grant. 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."
In 1990, Chernow became a member of the PEN American Center. In 2006, he was named as the President of the Board of Trustees, succeeding novelist Salman Rushdie. As of 2012, he serves as a member of the executive board of the Society of American Historians.
Honors and awards
- 1990: National Book Award for Nonfiction for The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance (winner)
- 1993: George S. Eccles Prize for Excellence in Economic Writing for The Warburgs: The Twentieth-Century Odyssey of a Remarkable Jewish Family (winner)
- 1998: National Book Critics Circle Award for Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. (nominated)
- 2004: George Washington Book Prize for Alexander Hamilton (winner)
- 2004: National Book Critics Circle Award for Alexander Hamilton (nominated)
- 2011: Pulitzer Prize for Biography for Washington: A Life (winner)
- 2011: American History Book Prize for Washington: A Life (winner)
- 2013: BIO Award from Biographers International Organization for advancing the art and craft of biography.
- 2015: National Humanities Medal
- Chernow, Ron (1990). The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance
- Chernow, Ron (1994). The Warburgs: The Twentieth-Century Odyssey of a Remarkable Jewish Family, New York: Random House
- Chernow, Ron (1997). The Death of the Banker: The Decline and Fall of the Great Financial Dynasties and the Triumph of the Small Investor
- Chernow, Ron (1998). Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.
- Chernow, Ron (2004). Alexander Hamilton
- Chernow, Ron (2010). Washington: A Life
- 1996: Biography, "J. Pierpont Morgan: Emperor of Wall Street" (documentary), as himself
- 2000: The American Experience, "The Rockefellers: Part 1" (documentary), as advisor
- 2000: The American Experience, "The Rockefellers: Part 2" (documentary), as advisor
- 2007: The American Experience, "Alexander Hamilton" (documentary), as advisor
- 2010: Tavis Smiley, "October 12, 2010 episode" (talk show), as guest
- 2010: Rediscovering Alexander Hamilton (documentary), as himself/historian
- Andrew Cayton, review of Washington, New York Times Book Review, October 3, 2010, p. 21 cited in Gale (2011)
- "1990 National Book Awards Winners and Finalists, The National Book Foundation". Nationalbook.org. Retrieved 2013-06-20.
- "Ron Chernow" in Contemporary Authors Online (Gale, 2011)
- Chernow, Ron (2010-09-23). "The Founding Fathers Versus the Tea Party". The New York Times.
- "Book Reviews: Book Review of The House of Morgan:, by Ron Chernow". Bluerectangle.com. Retrieved 2013-06-20.
- Garten, Jeffrey E. (1990-03-18). "Their Street Was Paved With Gold - New York Times". Nytimes.com. Retrieved 2013-06-20.
- "Honored Patricia Barbizet, Corinne Mentzelopoulos and Ron Chernow". Humanity in Action. Retrieved 2013-06-20.
- Morrow, Lance (1998-06-15). "Books: John D. Rockefeller: Oil In The Family". TIME. Retrieved 2013-06-20.
- "National Book Critics Circle: awards". Bookcritics.org. Retrieved 2013-06-20.
- "George Washington Book Prize". The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.
- Presser, Stephen B. (June 2006). "Review of Ron Chernow's Alexander Hamilton", Journal of American History, pages 192–193
- Richard Ellmann. "The Pulitzer Prizes | Biography or Autobiography". Pulitzer.org. Retrieved 2013-06-20.
- "The Pulitzer Prizes | Citation". Pulitzer.org. 2012-12-13. Retrieved 2012-12-30.
- Bosman, Julie (2011-03-04). "ARTS, BRIEFLY - Ron Chernow Wins Prize For Biography - Web Log - NYTimes.com". New York Times. Retrieved 2012-12-30.
- "The Real Washington at Last by Gordon S. Wood | The New York Review of Books". Nybooks.com. 2010-12-09. Retrieved 2013-06-20.
- "Chernow to write about Ulysses S. Grant | The Book Case". Bookpage.com. 2011-04-27. Retrieved 2013-06-20.
- "Chernow channels George Washington at the Kimmel — NewsWorks". Newsworks.org. 2011-09-26. Retrieved 2013-06-20.
- "Chernow Succeeds Rushdie as President of PEN American Center | Daily News | Poets & Writers". Pw.org. Retrieved 2013-06-20.
- The BIO Award, Biographers International Organization
- "President Obama to Award 2015 National Humanities Medals".
- "Ron Chernow" in Contemporary Authors Online (Gale, 2011)
- Ron Chernow at the Internet Movie Database
- Ron Chernow at Penguin Group website
- The Founding Fathers Versus the Tea Party by Ron Chernow
- Appearances on C-SPAN