Garraty, John A. 1920-2007 (John Arthur Garraty)

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Garraty, John A. 1920-2007 (John Arthur Garraty)


See index for CA sketch: Born July 4, 1920, in Brooklyn, NY; died of heart failure, December 19, 2007, in Sag Harbor, NY. Educator, historian, biographer, editor, and author. Garraty spent his career focused on the lives of others. During the decades that he taught at Columbia University, lastly as the Gouverneur Morris Professor of History, he wrote or edited dozens of books. Some were histories of the United States; many were biographies of the American men and women who made history, for better or worse. Garraty was best known as the general editor of the massive American National Biography (1999), a work of such scope that its index of representative occupations alone runs to 200 pages. Garraty had edited several supplements to the predecessor, the Dictionary of American Biography (1974-88) when he realized that the original work had become so dated, unwieldy, unbalanced, and even inaccurate in light of new discoveries, that only a completely new version could remedy its flaws. Working with the American Council of Learned Societies and Oxford University Press, Garraty oversaw the work of more than 6,000 contributors to determine who should be included (especially regarding the addition of women and ethnic minorities) and how sensitive or widely-believed-but-inconclusive data should be handled. In the end, twenty-four volumes included biographical sketches of nearly 18,000 individuals who made a contribution to the United States as it is known today. Garraty did not limit himself to thumbnail sketches. He wrote full-length biographies of presidents and the people who associated with presidents. He wrote many historical surveys and some more focused interpretations of topics such as labor and money in the Gilded Age, the history of unemployment, and the Great Depression. Garraty's books, almost one hundred altogether, include 1,001 Things Everyone Should Know about American History (1989), Comparative History: Beyond Description to Analysis (1991), and The Young Reader's Companion to American History (1994). Garraty was the coauthor of American Destiny: Narrative of a Nation, published originally in 2003 and revised for publication in 2008.



New York Times, December 26, 2007, p. C8.