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Daniel J. Boorstin

It's not often that a member of academia breaks out of his field to become a best-selling author, but it happened just that way for Daniel J. Boorstin.  He was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on October 1, 1914.  Raised in Oklahoma, he was graduated with honors from Harvard, studied at Balliol College, Oxford, as a Rhodes Scholar, and earned his PhD at Yale. 

Boorstin taught for years at the University of Chicago, and he has held many teaching positions abroad with stints at the University of Rome, the University of Geneva, Trinity College, Cambridge, and the Sorbonne.  He was also the twelfth Librarian of Congress. 

When President Gerald Ford nominated Boorstin to the position in 1975, the Authors League of America supported him, although the American Library Association objected because he "was not a library administrator."  The Senate confirmed the nomination without debate.

During his term as Librarian of Congress, Boorstin established the Center for the Book to encourage reading and literacy.  He also spearheaded what became a 10-year project to completely renovate the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress, restoring the main building to its original 1897 condition.  After retiring in 1987, he was named Librarian of Congress Emeritus.


Boorstin's books have been translated into over twenty languages and have won numerous awards. The Americans: The Colonial Experience, the first in a trilogy of books, won the Bancroft Prize.  His follow-up, The Americans: The Democratic Experience, won the Pulitzer Prize; and his third, The Americans: The National Experience, won the Francis Parkman Prize.  Boorstin is one of only a few people to have won all three awards. 

The author's other works include The Creators, The Discoverers, and Cleopatra's Nose: Essays on the Unexpected.  Boorstin has won Phi Beta Kappa's Distinguished Service to the Humanities Award and the National Book Award for Distinguished Contributions to American Letters.  Daniel Joseph Boorstin died of pneumonia on Feb. 28, 2004.

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