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Daniel Boorstin
Daniel Boorstin.jpg
Librarian of Congress
In office
November 12, 1975 – September 14, 1987
President Gerald Ford
Jimmy Carter
Ronald Reagan
Preceded by Lawrence Q. Mumford
Succeeded by James H. Billington
Personal details
Born Daniel Joseph Boorstin
(1914-10-01)October 1, 1914
Atlanta, Georgia
Died February 28, 2004(2004-02-28) (aged 89)
Washington, D.C.
Alma mater Harvard College
Oxford University
Yale University

Daniel Joseph Boorstin (October 1, 1914 – February 28, 2004) was an American historian at the University of Chicago, writing on many topics in American history and world history. He was appointed twelfth Librarian of the United States Congress in 1975 and served until 1987. He was instrumental in the creation of the Library of Congress Center for the Book.

Repudiating his youthful membership in the Communist Party while a Harvard undergraduate (1938–39), Boorstin became a political conservative and a prominent exponent of Consensus history. He argued in The Genius of American Politics (1953) that ideology, propaganda, and political theory are foreign to America. His writings were often linked with such historians as Richard Hofstadter, Louis Hartz and Clinton Rossiter as a proponent of the "consensus school," which emphasized the unity of the American people and downplayed class and social conflict. Boorstin especially praised inventors and entrepreneurs as central to the American success story.[1][2]

Biography[edit]

Boorstin was born in 1914, in Atlanta, Georgia, into a Jewish family. His father was a lawyer who participated in the defense of Leo Frank, a Jewish factory superintendent who was accused of the rape and murder of a teenage girl. After Frank's 1915 lynching led to a surge of anti-Semitic sentiment in Georgia, the family moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where Boorstin was raised. He graduated from Tulsa's Central High School at the age of 15.[3] He graduated with highest honors from Harvard, studied at Balliol College, Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, receiving BA and BCL degrees and earned an SJD degree at Yale University. He was a professor at the University of Chicago for 25 years and was the Pitt Professor of American History and Institutions at the University of Cambridge in 1964. He also served as director of the National Museum of History and Technology of the Smithsonian Institution.

Boorstin wrote more than 20 books, including two major trilogies, one on the American experience and the other on world intellectual history. The Americans: The Democratic Experience, the final book in the first trilogy, received the 1974 Pulitzer Prize in history. Boorstin's second trilogy, The Discoverers, The Creators and The Seekers, examines the scientific, artistic and philosophic histories of humanity, respectively.

In his “Author’s Note” for The Daniel J. Boorstin Reader (Modern Library, 1995), he wrote, “Essential to my life and work as a writer was my marriage in 1941 to Ruth Frankel who has ever since been my companion and editor for all my books.” Her obituary in the Washington Post (December 6, 2013) quotes Boorstin as saying, “Without her, I think my works would have been twice as long and half as readable.”

Within the discipline of social theory, Boorstin's 1961 book The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-events in America is an early description of aspects of American life that were later termed hyperreality and postmodernity. In The Image, Boorstin describes shifts in American culture – mainly due to advertising – where the reproduction or simulation of an event becomes more important or "real" than the event itself. He goes on to coin the term pseudo-event, which describes events or activities that serve little to no purpose other than to be reproduced through advertisements or other forms of publicity. The idea of pseudo-events anticipates later work by Jean Baudrillard and Guy Debord. The work is an often used text in American sociology courses, and Boorstin's concerns about the social effects of technology remain influential.[4]

When President Gerald Ford nominated Boorstin to be Librarian of Congress, the nomination was supported by the Authors Guild but opposed by liberals. He was attacked by the American Library Association because Boorstin "was not a library administrator". The Senate confirmed the nomination without debate.[5]

Boorstin died of pneumonia February 28, 2004, in Washington.[3] He is survived by his three sons, Paul, Jonathan and David, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Honors[edit]

Boorstin was awarded the Order of the Sacred Treasure, First Class, by the Japanese government in 1986. He was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for writing The Americans: The Democratic Experience.[3] He was inducted into the Tulsa Hall of Fame in 1989, and received the Oklahoma Book Award in 1993 for The Creators.[3] He held twenty honorary degrees, including an honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of Tulsa[3] and Doctor of Letters from Oglethorpe University in 1994.[6]

Books[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Alan J. Levine (2011). Bad Old Days: The Myth of the 1950s. Transaction Publishers. pp. 81–82. 
  2. ^ Pole (1969)
  3. ^ a b c d e Wilson, Linda D. Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. "Boorstin, Daniel J. (1914–2004)."
  4. ^ "Daniel J. Boorstin, RIP". The New Atlantis. Spring 2004. 
  5. ^ Robert Wedgeworth (1993). World Encyclopedia of Library and Information Services. American Library Association. pp. 137–38. 
  6. ^ "Honorary Degrees Awarded by Oglethorpe University". Oglethorpe University. Retrieved 2015-03-06. 

Further reading[edit]

  • John Y. Cole (March 30, 2006). "Jefferson's Legacy: A Brief History of the Library of Congress – Librarians of Congress". Library of Congress. Retrieved December 15, 2008. 
  • Diggins, John P. "The Perils of Naturalism: Some Reflections on Daniel J. Boorstin's Approach to American History." American Quarterly (1971): 153-180. in JSTOR
  • Morgan, Edmund S. "Daniel J. Boorstin, 1 October 1914 · 28 February 2004," Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society (2006) 150#2 pp. 347–351 in JSTOR
  • Pole, J. R. "Daniel J. Boorstin." in Past-masters: Some Essays on American Historians edited by Marcus, Cunliffe and Robin Winks (1969). pp to 10-38
  • King, Wayne and Warren Weaver Jr. "Briefing: Boorstin and the Emperor", The New York Times, May 2, 1986.
  • Wilson, Clyde N. Twentieth-Century American Historians (Gale: 1983, Dictionary of Literary Biography, volume 17) pp 79–85

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Lawrence Q. Mumford
Librarian of Congress
1975–1987
Succeeded by
James H. Billington

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_J._Boorstin — Please support Wikipedia.
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153 news items

WCPO

WCPO
Fri, 24 Apr 2015 12:36:43 -0700

"The celebrity," cultural historian Daniel J. Boorstin once observed, almost redundantly, "is a person who is known for his well-knownness." But the modern celebrity -- unattached to movie stardom or TV stardom or pop music stardom -- is really someone ...

The Australian (blog)

The Australian (blog)
Fri, 08 May 2015 07:27:39 -0700

Daniel J. Boorstin made a distinction between the discovering mind, “characterised by its vagrancy, its openness to the unexpected, its willingness to wander into unimagined territory”, and the inventive mind, which is “more apt to hit familiar targets ...

Polska The Times

Polska The Times
Sun, 17 May 2015 02:09:08 -0700

Teoretyk kultury Daniel J. Boorstin czyni rozróżnienie między "umysłem odkrywcy" a "umysłem wynalazcy". Tego pierwszego charakteryzują "skłonność do włóczęgostwa, otwarcie na wszystko, co może się zdarzyć, oraz chęć wdzierania się w nieznane ...

Climate Central

Climate Central
Mon, 02 Mar 2015 12:18:43 -0800

Despite a recent influx of snow and rain this past weekend, extremely low snowpack in the Sierra Nevada has conspired with warm temperatures to keep the state in the grips of one its worst droughts on record for at least another year. The precipitation ...
 
Washington Post
Fri, 06 Dec 2013 14:12:42 -0800

Ruth F. Boorstin, the stalwart collaborator with and editor of her late husband, former librarian of Congress and prize-winning historian Daniel J. Boorstin, died Dec. 1 at an assisted-living center in Encino, Calif. She was 95. The cause was sudden ...

National Review Online (blog)

National Review Online (blog)
Wed, 31 Dec 2014 01:08:34 -0800

... Invisible Man's Ralph Waldo Ellison, tragic Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, John Hersey (whose landmark New Yorker article “Hiroshima” can be found here), former Librarian of Congress Daniel J. Boorstin, and Nobel Prize–winning Mexican poet Octavio Paz.

Spectator.co.uk

Spectator.co.uk
Wed, 04 Mar 2015 20:21:11 -0800

He has time for Debord, a founder of the Situationist International, who wrote The Society of Spectacle, the rive gauche Marxist version of Daniel J. Boorstin's The Image. Debord's argument is that capitalism lies at the root of celebrity culture. The ...

The Weekly Standard

The Weekly Standard
Thu, 25 Dec 2014 21:03:45 -0800

Social critics like Daniel J. Boorstin warned about the rise of a culture based on “simulation” and “illusion” rather than on reality. In his landmark The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America (1962), Boorstin pointed an angry finger at “Madison ...
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