Ron Chernow

Ron Chernow
BornRonald Chernow
(1949-03-03) March 3, 1949 (age 70)
Brooklyn, New York City, U.S.
OccupationWriter, journalist, historian, biographer
EducationEnglish literature
Alma materYale College
Pembroke College, Cambridge
SubjectHistorical biography
Notable worksAlexander Hamilton
The House of Morgan
Washington: A Life
Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.
Notable awardsPulitzer Prize for Biography
American History Book Prize
National Book Award for Nonfiction
Valerie Stearn
(m. 1979; died 2006)


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Ronald Chernow (/ˈɜːrn/;[1][2] 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.

He won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Biography and the 2011 American History Book Prize for his 2010 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.[3] His biographies of Alexander Hamilton (2004) and John D. Rockefeller (1998) were both nominated for National Book Critics Circle Awards, while the former served as the inspiration for the Hamilton musical, for which Chernow worked as a historical consultant. Another book, 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 sixty articles in national publications.

Personal background

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 was voted "Most Likely to Succeed", and was Class President and Valedictorian when he graduated in 1966 from Forest Hills High School in Queens, New York.[4] Chernow graduated with honors from Yale University in 1970 and Pembroke College at Cambridge University 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."[5]

He married Valerie Stearn in 1979; she died in January 2006. Valerie S. Chernow was an assistant professor of languages and social sciences at the New York City College of Technology.[6]

Ron Chernow has received honorary degrees from Long Island University, Marymount Manhattan College, Hamilton College, Washington College, and Skidmore College.[5]

Professional background

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[7] 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.[8] 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."[9] The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance was honored with the National Book Award for Nonfiction.[3]

The Warburgs

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[10] 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 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 called it "one of the great American biographies".[11]

American politics

Alexander Hamilton

In 2004, Chernow published Alexander Hamilton. The biography was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award[12] and was named as the winner of the inaugural George Washington Book Prize for early American history.[13] 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:

The biography was adapted into a Tony award-winning musical, Hamilton, by Lin-Manuel Miranda, which opened on Broadway in August 2015. Chernow served as historical consultant to the production.

George Washington

Chernow's 904-page Washington: A Life was released on October 5, 2010 (ISBN 978-1594202667). It won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography[15][16] and the American History Book Prize. Professor Gordon S. Wood, renowned scholar of the Founding era, wrote:[17]

Ulysses S. Grant

In 2011, Chernow signed a deal to write a comprehensive biography on Ulysses S. Grant.[19] 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."[20] Grant was released on October 10, 2017 and the biography strongly argues against conventional wisdom that Grant was an "...adequate president, a dull companion and a roaring drunk."[21] The book received overwhelmingly positive reviews and was named by The New York Times as one of the 10 Best Books of 2017.[22]

Board memberships

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.[23]

Honors and awards

Published works


  • 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


  1. ^ "Q&A with Ron Chernow". C-SPAN. March 25, 2016. Retrieved December 27, 2018.
  2. ^ "Alexander Hamilton: The man who imagined America | LIVE EVENT". American Enterprise Institute. July 1, 2016. Retrieved December 27, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c "1990 National Book Awards Winners and Finalists, The National Book Foundation". Nationalbook.org. Retrieved June 20, 2013.
  4. ^ The Forester Class of 1966, p. 11, 24, 50.
  5. ^ a b "Ron Chernow" in Contemporary Authors Online (Gale, 2011)
  6. ^ Miller, Stephen (2006-01-16). "Valerie Chernow, 66, Professor Of Languages at City Tech". The New York Sun.
  7. ^ Chernow, Ron (2010-09-23). "The Founding Fathers Versus the Tea Party". The New York Times.
  8. ^ "Book Reviews: Book Review of The House of Morgan:, by Ron Chernow". Bluerectangle.com. Archived from the original on 2012-11-28. Retrieved 2013-06-20.
  9. ^ Garten, Jeffrey E. (1990-03-18). "Their Street Was Paved With Gold - New York Times". Nytimes.com. Retrieved 2013-06-20.
  10. ^ "Honored Patricia Barbizet, Corinne Mentzelopoulos and Ron Chernow". Humanity in Action. Retrieved 2013-06-20.
  11. ^ Morrow, Lance (1998-06-15). "Books: John D. Rockefeller: Oil In The Family". TIME. Retrieved 2013-06-20.
  12. ^ a b c "National Book Critics Circle: awards". Bookcritics.org. Retrieved 2013-06-20.
  13. ^ a b "George Washington Book Prize". The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Retrieved March 25, 2018.
  14. ^ Presser, Stephen B. (June 2006). "Review of Ron Chernow's Alexander Hamilton", Journal of American History, pages 192–193
  15. ^ a b Richard Ellmann. "The Pulitzer Prizes | Biography or Autobiography". Pulitzer.org. Retrieved 2013-06-20.
  16. ^ a b "The Pulitzer Prizes | Citation". Pulitzer.org. 2012-12-13. Retrieved 2012-12-30.
  17. ^ "The Real Washington at Last by Gordon S. Wood | The New York Review of Books". Nybooks.com. 2010-12-09. Retrieved 2013-06-20.
  18. ^ a b Bosman, Julie (2011-03-04). "ARTS, BRIEFLY - Ron Chernow Wins Prize For Biography - Web Log - NYTimes.com". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-12-30.
  19. ^ "Chernow to write about Ulysses S. Grant | The Book Case". Bookpage.com. 2011-04-27. Retrieved 2013-06-20.
  20. ^ "Chernow channels George Washington at the Kimmel — NewsWorks". Newsworks.org. 2011-09-26. Archived from the original on 2012-09-12. Retrieved 2013-06-20.
  21. ^ Maslin, Janet (10 October 2017). "In Ron Chernow's 'Grant,' an American Giant's Makeover Continues" – via www.nytimes.com.
  22. ^ "The 10 Best Books of 2017". New York Times. 30 November 2017. Retrieved 9 February 2018.
  23. ^ "Chernow Succeeds Rushdie as President of PEN American Center | Daily News | Poets & Writers". Pw.org. Retrieved 2013-06-20.
  24. ^ "The BIO Award, Biographers International Organization". Archived from the original on 2016-03-07.
  25. ^ "President Obama to Award 2015 National Humanities Medals".
  26. ^ http://www.socialsciencesinstitute.org/gold-medal-honorees

Further reading

External links

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