The Pulitzer Prize for Biography is one of the seven American Pulitzer Prizes that are annually awarded for Letters, Drama, and Music. It has been presented since 1917 for a distinguished biography, autobiography or memoir by an American author or co-authors, published during the preceding calendar year. Thus it is one of the original Pulitzers, for the program was inaugurated in 1917 with seven prizes, four of which were awarded that year.
In its first 97 years to 2013, the Biography Pulitzer was awarded 97 times. Two were given in 1938, none in 1962.
Entries from this point on include the finalists listed after the winner for each year.
Ten people have won the Pulitzer for Biography or Autobiography twice:
W. A. Swanberg was selected by the Pulitzer board in 1962 and 1973; however, the trustees of Columbia University (then responsible for conferral of the awards) overturned the proposed 1962 prize for Citizen Hearst.
American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer is a biography of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin published by Alfred A. Knopf in 2005. Twenty-five years in the making, the book was awarded the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography. It also won the 2008 Duff Cooper Prize, Chicago Tribune Best Book of the Year, and Discover Magazine Best Science Book of the Year.
The book's title refers to the legend of Prometheus, as mentioned in Scientific Monthly in September 1945:
Modern Prometheans have raided Mount Olympus again and have brought back for man the very thunderbolts of Zeus.
It is 721 pages from start to finish in the May 2006 paperback edition, but it also includes 32 pages of photographs.
The first edition however, also has 721 pages.Arthur Walworth
Arthur Walworth (July 9, 1903 – January 10, 2005) was an American writer. He is most noted as a biographer of Woodrow Wilson. He was born in Newton, Massachusetts. He won the 1959 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography for Woodrow Wilson, Volume I: American Prophet.He also wrote about China and Japan. He taught at the Yali School of Changsha in 1925 and was a Senior Bachelor of the Yale's China group. In 1946 he wrote a book on Commodore Matthew Perry's expedition.He never married or had children. He died in Needham, Massachusetts.Burton J. Hendrick
Burton Jesse Hendrick (December 8, 1870 – March 23, 1949), born in New Haven, Connecticut, was an American author. While attending Yale University, Hendrick was editor of both The Yale Courant and The Yale Literary Magazine. He received his BA in 1895 and his master's in 1897 from Yale. After completing his degree work, Hendrick became editor of the New Haven Morning News. In 1905, after writing for The New York Evening Post and The New York Sun, Hendrick left newspapers and became a "muckraker" writing for McClure's Magazine. His "The Story of Life-Insurance" exposé appeared in McClure's in 1906. Following his career at McClure's, Hendrick went to work in 1913 at Walter Hines Page's World's Work magazine as an associate editor. In 1919, Hendrick began writing biographies, when he was the ghostwriter of Ambassador Morgenthau's Story for Henry Morgenthau, Sr.
In 1921 he won the Pulitzer Prize for History for The Victory at Sea, which he co-authored with William Sowden Sims, the 1923 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography for The Life and Letters of Walter H. Page, and the 1929 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography for The Training of An American.In 1919 Hendrick published the Age of Big Business by using a series of individual biographies to create an enthusiastic look at the foundation of the corporation in America and the rapid rise of the United States as a world power. After completing the commissioned biography of Andrew Carnegie, Hendrick turned to writing group biographies. There is an obvious gap in the later works published by Hendrick between 1940 and 1946, which is explained by his work on a biography on Andrew Mellon, which was commissioned by the Mellon family, but never published.
At the time of his death, Hendrick was working on a biography of Louise Whitfield Carnegie, the wife of Andrew Carnegie.Carl Van Doren
Carl Clinton Van Doren (September 10, 1885 – July 18, 1950) was an American critic and biographer. He was the brother of critic and teacher Mark Van Doren and the uncle of Charles Van Doren.
He won the 1939 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography for Benjamin Franklin.Carleton Mabee
Carleton Mabee (December 24, 1914 – December 18, 2014) was an American writer who won the 1944 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography for The American Leonardo: The Life of Samuel F B. Morse.Elizabeth Frank
Elizabeth Frank (born September 14, 1945, in Los Angeles) is an American writer and the Joseph E. Harry Professor of Modern Languages and Literature at Bard College, who won the 1986 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography for Louise Bogan: A Portrait (1985). She is the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Ford Foundation, Temple University, the Newberry Library, and the American Council of Learned Societies.Frank has also written monographs of Jackson Pollock and Esteban Vicente, as well as numerous articles on literature, art, and literary and art criticism in such publications as the New York Times Book Review, New York Times Magazine, The Nation, Art in America, Partisan Review, New York Arts Journal, Salmagundi, Journal of Modern Literature, and ARTnews.She earned B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees from the University of California, Berkeley.Her father was Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and filmmaker Melvin Frank.John Adams (book)
John Adams is a 2001 biography of the Founding Father and second U.S. President John Adams, written by the popular American historian David McCullough, which won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography. It has been made into a TV miniseries with the same name by HBO Films. Since the TV miniseries debuted, an alternative cover has been added to the book showing Paul Giamatti as John Adams. The book is available as both hardcover and paperback.John Alexander Carroll
John Alexander Carroll (died 17 December 2000) was an American history professor who primarily taught at the University of Arizona from 1958 to 1967. While at Arizona, Carroll founded Arizona and the West in 1959 and was the journal's editor until 1963. Outside of academics, Carroll was a co-winner of the 1958 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography for George Washington, Volumes I-VII.Leonard Baker
Leonard S. Baker (January 24, 1931 – November 23, 1984) was an American writer.
He won the 1979 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography for Days of Sorrow and Pain: Leo Baeck and the Berlin Jews (Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-502800-7), a book about Leo Baeck.
His other published works include The Johnson Eclipse: A President's Vice Presidency, Back to Back: The Duel Between FDR and the Supreme Court, John Marshall: A Life in Law, Brandeis and Frankfurter: A Dual Biography, Brahmin in Revolt, Roosevelt and Pearl Harbor, and The Guaranteed Society.
A 1952 graduate of the University of Pittsburgh's School of Arts and Sciences, Baker served as a reporter for the St. Louis Globe-Democrat from 1955–1956 and for Newsday from 1956-1965.He also married and had two children: David Baker and Sara Baker.Linnie Marsh Wolfe
Linnie Marsh Wolfe (January 8, 1881 – September 15, 1945) was an American librarian. She won the 1946 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography for her 1945 biography of John Muir titled Son of the Wilderness: The Life of John Muir (New York: A. A. Knopf, 1945).Louis R. Harlan
Louis Rudolph Harlan (July 13, 1922 – January 22, 2010) was an American academic historian who wrote a two-volume biography of the African-American educator and social leader Booker T. Washington and edited several volumes of Washington materials. He won the Bancroft Prize in 1973 and 1984, once for each volume, and the 1984 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography for the second volume.Mary Wells Ashworth
Mary Wells Ashworth (May 28, 1903 — September 12, 1992) was an American historian. She was granted a Guggenheim Fellowship for biography in 1955 and was a co-winner of the 1958 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography for George Washington, Volumes I-VII.Megan Marshall
Megan Marshall (born June 8, 1954) is an American scholar, writer, and biographer.
Her first biography The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism (2005) earned her a place as a finalist for the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography.
Her second biography Margaret Fuller: A New American Life (2013) is a richly detailed account of Margaret Fuller, the 19th-century author, journalist, and women’s rights advocate who perished in a shipwreck off New York’s Fire Island. It won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography.Russel B. Nye
Russel Blaine Nye (February 17, 1913 – September 2, 1993) was an American professor of English who in the 1960s pioneered Popular Culture Theory. He is the author of a dozen books. His book George Bancroft: Brahmin Rebel won the 1945 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography.
Born in Viola, Wisconsin, Nye received his bachelor's degree from Oberlin College in 1934 and his master's degree from the University of Wisconsin in English the following year. In 1938 he married Kathryn Chaney, and in 1940 he completed his doctorate on George Bancroft again at the University of Wisconsin. Nye taught in the English department at Michigan State University from 1941 to 1979.In 1957 after the director of the Detroit Public Library claimed that Frank L. Baum's novel The Wizard of Oz had no value and shouldn't be stocked by libraries, Nye and Martin Gardner published a new critical edition of the novel bringing out its value, causing a firestorm of controversy, followed by eventual acceptance.
In 1970 he co-founded the Popular Culture Association with Ray B. Browne and Marshall Fishwick, working to shape a new academic discipline called Popular Culture Theory that blurred the traditional distinctions between high and low culture, focusing on mass culture mediums like television and the Internet, and cultural archetypes like comic book heroes.
He died in Lansing, Michigan in 1993.Truman (book)
Truman is a 1992 biography of the 33rd President of the United States Harry S. Truman written by popular historian David McCullough. The book won the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography. The book was later made into a movie with the same name by HBO.Walter Jackson Bate
Walter Jackson Bate (May 23, 1918 – July 26, 1999) was an American literary critic and biographer. He is known for Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography-winning biographies of Samuel Johnson (1978) and John Keats (1964).Samuel Johnson also won the 1978 U.S. National Book Award in Biography.Bate was born in Mankato, Minnesota. He studied (under Douglas Bush) and later taught at Harvard University.
His critical work, especially The Burden of the Past and the English Poet, responds to and anticipates some aspects of the work of Harold Bloom. His biographies of Keats and Johnson have enjoyed extraordinary reputations both as scholarly resources and as works of literature in their own right. Jane Kenyon, one of many writers to be influenced by the Keats biography, paraphrases it in her poem "Reading Late of the Death of Keats":
Clearly I had packed the wrong bookin my haste: Keats died, propped upto get more air. Severnstraightened the body on the bed,and cut three dampened curlsfrom Keats's head.He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1957. Bate retired from teaching at Harvard in 1986, and died on July 26, 1999, at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, aged 81. A brief memoir appeared in 2013.William S. McFeely
William Shield McFeely (born September 25, 1930) is an American historian. He retired as the Abraham Baldwin Professor of the Humanities emeritus at the University of Georgia in 1997, and has been affiliated with Harvard University since 2006.
McFeely received his B.A. from Amherst College in 1952, and Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale University in 1966. He studied there with, among others, C. Vann Woodward, whose book The Strange Career of Jim Crow was a staple of the Civil Rights Movement. Like Woodward, he sought to employ history in the service of civil rights. His dissertation, later the 1968 book Yankee Stepfather, explored the ill-fated Freedmen's Bureau which was created to help ex-slaves after the Civil War. While at Yale, during the tumultuous years of the American Civil Rights Movement and Black Power movements, he was instrumental in creating the African-American studies program at a time when such programs were still controversial.
He taught for 16 years at Mount Holyoke College before joining the University of Georgia in 1986 as the Constance E. Smith Fellow. McFeely won the 1982 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography for his 1981 biography of Ulysses S. Grant, which portrayed the general and president in a harsh light. He concluded that Grant "Did not rise above limited talents or inspire others to do so in ways that make his administration a credit to American politics."McFeely retired in 1997. He was a fellow at Harvard's Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study during the 2006-2007 academic year, where he studied Henry Adams and his wife Clover Adams, and Clarence King and his wife Ada Copeland King. He is a visiting scholar and associate member of Harvard's Afro-American Studies Department and an associate of their Humanities Center.
Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography