"Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill." - Barbara Tuchman
American historian and author Barbara Wertheim Tuchman was born in 1912 into a wealthy New York family. After gaining an undergraduate degree from Radcliffe College she worked as a research assistant at the Institute of Pacific Relations in New York and Tokyo, and then was an editorial assistant for The Nation, followed by time as an American correspondent for the New Statesman in London and on the Far East News Desk. She also worked for the Office of War Information (194445).
In 1939 she married Lester R. Tuchman, an internist, medical researcher and professor of clinical medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. They had three daughters. Although she could have lived a conventional life as a the wife of a prominent physician, as her three daughters grew up she started to write history books. This was a challenge for her, not just because she was a woman but because she had no graduate degree, let alone an academic title. "It's what saved me," she once said. "If I had taken a doctoral degree, it would have stifled any writing capacity." She had a firm sense of her vocation as a historian, which she summed up in a 1978 speech, "'the writer's object is - or should be - to hold the reader's attention ... I want the reader to turn the page and keep on turning to the end. This is accomplished only when the narrative moves steadily ahead, not when it comes to a weary standstill, overloaded with every item uncovered in the research."
She first found fame as the author of The Guns of August (late retitled August 1914) which won the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction in 1963; the first of two Pulitzers she would receive, the second was for Stilwell and the American Experience in China (1972).
Tuchman was a trustee of Radcliffe College and a lecturer at Harvard University, University of California, and the U.S. Naval War College. A tower of Currier House, a residential division of Harvard College was named in her honor.
She died at the age of seventy-seven in 1989. The New York Times published a substantial obituary that can be read here.
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