Thorndike, Joseph J., Jr. 1913-2005

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Thorndike, Joseph J., Jr. 1913-2005
(Joseph Jacobs Thorndike, Jr.)


Born July 29, 1913, in Peabody, MA; died of heart failure, November 22, 2005, in Harwich, MA; son of Joseph Jacobs and Susan Ellison (Farnham) Thorndike; married Virginia Lemont, September 7, 1940 (divorced); married Margery Darrell, October 3, 1963; children: (first marriage) John, Alan; (second marriage) Joseph Jacobs III. Education: Harvard University, B.A., 1934.


Editor, historian, and writer. Time, assistant editor, 1934-36; Life, associate editor, 1936-46; managing editor, 1946-49; American Heritage,cofounder, contributing editor, 1954; Horizon,cofounder and contributing editor, 1958; Thorndike, Jensen & Parton, Inc., president.



The Very Rich: A History of Wealth, American Heritage (New York, NY), 1976.

(Editor, with others) Mysteries of the Past, American Heritage (New York, NY), 1977.

(With editors of American Heritage) The Magnificent Builders and Their Dream Houses, American Heritage (New York, NY), 1978.

(Editor) Discovery of Lost Worlds, American Heritage (New York, NY), 1979.

(Editor) Mysteries of the Deep, American Heritage (New York, NY), 1980.

(Editor) Three Centuries of Notable American Architects, American Heritage (New York, NY), 1981.

The Coast: A Journey down the Atlantic Shore (illustrated by Frank Riccio), St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1993.


Joseph J. Thorndike, Jr., was born and raised in Peabody, Massachusetts, and went on to study economics at Harvard University. Following his graduation, Thorndike joined the staff of Time as an assistant editor, and then two years later moved on to the fledgling publication Life, where he took the post of associate editor, and in 1946 was promoted to managing editor. During his tenure at Life, Thorndike worked with a range of noted writers, including John Kenneth Galbraith, John Dos Passos, James Thurber, and Winston Churchill, and photographers includingRobert Capa and Margaret Bourke-White. Thorndike traveled abroad for the magazine during World War II, reporting from Italy and North Africa.

In 1954 Thorndike applied his editorial experience to his own venture, and became a cofounder of a general interest magazine, American Heritage, with two colleagues from Life, Oliver Jensen and James Parton. The three partners went on to found an arts and world history publication, Horizon, in 1958. Horizon was published until 1989.

Beyond his magazine career, Thorndike served as author or editor of a number of books. The volumes focused primarily on art and architecture, nature, and history. His final effort, The Coast: A Journey down the Atlantic Shore, with illustrations by Frank Riccio, was released in 1993. The book recounts Thorndike's experiences during a series of trips he took along the Atlantic shoreline, tracing the coast from Maine all the way down to Florida. In addition to his own anecdotes, Thorndike shares tales of some of the more famous individuals to have explored the various parts of the coast, including artist Winslow Homer and authorHenry David Thoreau. He also takes note of the encroachment of civilization on what was once a wild, untouched area. A reviewer for American Heritageremarked: "Everywhere Thorndike goes he finds overdevelopment, erosion, pollution, and loss of wildlife. Although his dismay is heartfelt, his wry humor never fails him."



American Heritage, July-August, 1993, review of The Coast: A Journey down the Atlantic Shore, p. 102.

Publishers Weekly, January 25, 1993, review of The Coast, p. 69.



New York Times, November 24, 2005, Margalit Fox, "Joseph Thorndike, 92, Editor at Life and Other Magazines," p. A29.

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Thorndike, Joseph J., Jr. 1913-2005

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