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James Gleick

James Gleick
Born (1954-08-01) August 1, 1954
New York City
Occupation writer
Citizenship United States
Alma mater Harvard College
Notable works The Information (2011), Genius (1992), Chaos (1987)

James Gleick (;[1] born August 1, 1954) is an American author, historian of science, and sometime Internet pioneer whose work has chronicled the cultural impact of modern technology. Recognized for illuminating complex subjects through the techniques of narrative nonfiction, he has been called “one of the great science writers of all time.”[2][3]

Gleick's books include the international bestsellers Chaos: Making a New Science and The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood.[4] Three of them have been Pulitzer Prize[5][6][7] and National Book Award[8][9] finalists; and The Information was awarded the PEN/E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award in 2012 and the Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books 2012. They have been translated into more than thirty languages.[10]


  • Biography 1
    • The Pipeline 1.1
    • Aircraft accident 1.2
  • Work 2
  • Bibliography 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


A native of New York City, Gleick attended Harvard College, where he was an editor of the Harvard Crimson, graduating in 1976 with a degree in English and linguistics. He moved to Minneapolis and helped found an alternative weekly newspaper, Metropolis. After its demise a year later, he returned to New York and in 1979 joined the staff of the New York Times. He worked there for ten years as an editor on the metropolitan desk and then as a science reporter.

Among the scientists Gleick profiled in the New York Times Magazine were Douglas Hofstadter, Stephen Jay Gould, Mitchell Feigenbaum, and Benoit Mandelbrot. His early reporting on Microsoft anticipated the antitrust investigations by the U. S. Department of Justice and the European Commission. He wrote the "Fast Forward" column in the New York Times Magazine from 1995 to 1999, and his essays charting the growth of the Internet formed the basis of his book What Just Happened. His work has also appeared in The New Yorker, the Atlantic, Slate, and the Washington Post, and he is a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books.

His first book, Chaos: Making a New Science, reported the development of the new science of chaos and complexity. It made the Butterfly Effect a household word, introduced the Mandelbrot Set and fractal geometry to a broad audience, and sparked popular interest in the subject, influencing such diverse writers as Tom Stoppard (Arcadia) and Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park).[11][12]

The Pipeline

In 1993, Gleick founded one of the earliest Internet service providers, The Pipeline, in New York City. It was the first ISP to offer a graphical user interface, incorporating e-mail, chat, Usenet, and the World Wide Web, through software for Windows and Mac operating systems.[13][14] The software, created by Gleick’s partner, Uday Ivatury, was licensed to other Internet service providers in the United States and overseas. Gleick sold the Pipeline in 1995 to PSINet, and it was later absorbed into MindSpring and then EarthLink.[15][16]

Aircraft accident

On December 20, 1997, Gleick was attempting to land his Rutan Long-EZ experimental plane at Greenwood Lake Airport in West Milford, New Jersey when a build-up of ice in the engine's carburetor caused the aircraft engine to lose power and the plane landed short of the runway into rising terrain, making a crash impact unavoidable.[17] The impact killed Gleick's passenger, his eight-year-old son, and left Gleick seriously injured.[18]

...The couple's adopted son, Harry, a lively and adventurous 8-year-old who often flew with his father, died shortly after impact. Gleick was trapped inside the mangled aircraft for half an hour; as rescue workers started pulling him from the wreckage, he asked about Harry and then passed out. Gleick lost a leg, nearly lost both, and spent five months in New York University's Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine.[19]


Gleick’s style has been described as a combination of "clear mind, magpie-styled research and explanatory verve.”[20] After the publication of Chaos, Gleick collaborated with the photographer Eliot Porter on Nature's Chaos and with developers at Autodesk on Chaos: The Software. He was the McGraw Distinguished Lecturer at Princeton University in 1989–90. He was the first editor of The Best American Science Writing series.

His next books include two biographies, Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman, and Isaac Newton, which John Banville said “will surely stand as the definitive study for a very long time to come.”[21]

Gleick is active on the boards of the Authors Guild and the Key West Literary Seminar.


  • 1987 Chaos: Making a New Science, Viking Penguin. (ISBN 0670811785)
  • 2008 Chaos: Making a New Science, Revised edition, Penguin Books. (ISBN 0143113453)
  • 1990 (with Eliot Porter) Nature's Chaos, Viking Penguin. (ISBN 0316609420)
  • 1992 Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman, Pantheon Books. (ISBN 0679747044)
  • 1992 Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman, Voyager Expanded Books.
  • 2011 Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman, Kindle Edition, Open Road Media. (ISBN 0679747044)
  • 1999 Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything, Pantheon. (ISBN 067977548X)
  • 2000 (editor) The Best American Science Writing 2000, HarperCollins. (ISBN 0060957360)
  • 2002 What Just Happened: A Chronicle from the Electronic Frontier, Pantheon. (ISBN 0375713913)
  • 2003 Isaac Newton, Pantheon. (ISBN 1400032954)
  • 2011 The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood. New York: Pantheon Books. (ISBN 9780375423727 )


  1. ^ "James Gleick Interview and Reading" on YouTube
  2. ^ "Study Guide: James Gleick". E Notes. 
  3. ^ Doctorow, Cory (March 24, 2011). "James Gleick's tour-de-force: The Information, a natural history of information theory". Boing Boing. Retrieved 29 May 2014. 
  4. ^ "James Gleick: Bibliography".  
  5. ^ Gleick, James. "1988 Finalists". Chaos: Making a new Science. The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved 28 May 2011. 
  6. ^ Gleick, James. "1993 Finalists". Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman. The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved 28 May 2011. 
  7. ^ Gleick, James. "2004 Finalists". Isaac Newton. The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved 28 May 2011. 
  8. ^ Gleick, James. "National Book Awards - 1987". Chaos: Making a New Science. National Book Foundation. Retrieved 28 May 2011. 
  9. ^ Gleick, James. "National Book Awards - 1992". Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman.  
  10. ^ Gleick, James. "About". Bits in the Ether. Author's website. Retrieved 14 June 2011. 
  11. ^ Delaney, Paul (1994). Tom Stoppard in Conversation. University of Michigan Press. p. 224. 
  12. ^ Crichton, Michael (1990). Jurassic Park. Alfred A. Knopf. p. 400. 
  13. ^ Batelle, John (November 1994). "Pipeline".  
  14. ^  
  15. ^ Lewis, Peter H. (February 11, 1995). "Performance Systems Buys Pipeline Network".  
  16. ^ "Psinet to Sell Consumer Internet Division".  
  17. ^ "FA ID: NYC98FA047". National Transportation Safety Board. US Government. Retrieved 12 October 2014. 
  18. ^ "Untitled (NYC98FA047 crash narrative)". National Transportation Safety Board. US Government. Retrieved 12 October 2014. 
  19. ^ Diamond, David. "James Gleick's Survival Lessons". Wired. Condé Nast. Retrieved 12 October 2014. 
  20. ^ "Karen Long on James Gleick's The Information". February 7, 2012. Retrieved May 29, 2014. 
  21. ^ Banville, John (August 29, 2003). "The Magus".  

External links

James Gleick talks about The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood on Bookbits radio.
  • Quotations related to James Gleick at Wikiquote
  • James Gleick's website with selections of his work.
  • A Miracle Made Lyrical, Christopher Lydon interview with James Gleick.
  • The Narrative Thread, James Gleick talks with Robert Birnbaum on Identity Theory (webzine).
  • Leave Cyberspace, Meet in Egypt, article on the culture of WorldHeritage.
  • If Shakespeare Had Been Able to Google, article by Gleick from The New York Review of Books.
  • Audio: James Gleick in conversation with Janna Levin at the Key West Literary Seminar, 2008.
  • 'Science writer James Gleick explains the physics that define new media in the ongoing communications revolution' by Peter Kadzis, interview in the Boston Phoenix, April 6, 2011.
  • Appearances on C-SPAN
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