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Alfred Du Pont Chandler Jr.

Date of birth : 1918-09-15
Date of death : 2007-05-09
Birthplace : Guyencourt, Delaware
Nationality : American
Category : Famous Figures
Last modified : 2010-11-20

Alfred Du Pont Chandler, Jr. was an American historian who specialized in both the biographies of American business leaders and in the organization and administration of large scale industrial enterprises.

Alfred Du Pont Chandler, Jr., was born in Guyencourt, Delaware, on September 15, 1918, the son of Alfred DuPont and Carol Remsay Chandler. He was educated at Harvard, receiving his B.A. in 1940 just in time to join the United States Navy. While serving in the navy, in 1944 he married Kay Martin. Mustered out in 1945, Chandler returned to Harvard to study history, earning his M.A. in 1947 and his Ph.D. in 1952.

His professional career began at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1950 where he was a research associate. He then became a faculty member and remained at M.I.T. until 1963, with time off to be a research fellow at Harvard in 1953 and a Guggenheim Fellow in 1958.

Chandler served an apprenticeship as assistant editor of The Letters of Theodore Roosevelt under Elting M. Morison and John M. Blum from 1950 to 1953. This was later to stand him in good stead when an opportunity arose to edit the Eisenhower Papers. His first book was a biography, Henry Varnum Poor, Business Editor, Analyst, and Reformer (1956), which was indicative of his interest in the history of businessmen, businesses, and business organizations. This book also showed his belief in the middle-class nature of reform movements in the United States.

While at M.I.T. Chandler also served as an academic consultant to the Naval War College in 1954. His second book, Strategy and Structure: Chapters in the History of the Industrial Enterprise, was a study in organizational behavior which won a Newcomen Award for 1962. It also furthered his reputation as a business historian, and the following year he moved to Johns Hopkins University.

At Johns Hopkins Chandler continued his productivity even though he took on the added responsibilities of director of the Center for Study of Recent American History in 1964 and of department chairman in 1966. He also became chairman of the Historical Advisory Committee of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission in 1969, a post he held until 1977.

While busy with these administrative tasks, Chandler still found time to write. In 1964 he published Giant Enterprise: Ford, General Motors and the Automotive Industry, and in 1965 he edited a book entitled The Railroads. His major intellectual energy, however, was devoted to the editing
of The Papers of Dwight David Eisenhower, which appeared in five volumes in 1970. His assistant editor, Steven B. Ambrose, became a noted Eisenhower scholar.

In 1970 Chandler was the Thomas Henry Carroll Ford Foundation Visiting Fellow at Harvard. He remained at Harvard as the Strauss Professor of Business History in the Graduate School of Business, although he was also a visiting fellow at All Souls, Oxford, and a visiting professor at the European Institute of Washington. The same year he was a visiting fellow at Harvard he also was a member of the National Advertising Council's Committee on Educational and Professional Development.

During his tenure at Harvard, Chandler continued to write. In 1971, along with Stephen Salsbury, he published Pierre S. du Pont and the Making of the Modern Corporation. In 1977 he published what was his most famous book, The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business. The book was a culmination of Chandler's thinking on the operation of American business and earned the Pulitzer and Bancroft prizes in 1978. These were not the only honors Chandler garnered. He was a member of the American Philosophical Society and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1977-1978 he served as president of the Business History Conference. The most fitting accolade is that of John Higham, who exempted Chandler from "the deadly blight" which had prevented other senior historians from doing their culminating work in the 1960s and 1970s.

Since that time he wrote The Essential Alfred Chandler: Essays Toward a Historical Theory of Big Business (1988), and his Scale and Scope: The Dynamics of Industrial Capitalism was written with the assistance of Takashi Hikino (1990). Scale and Scope was hailed as an indispensable historical reference spanning three-quarters of the twentieth century. In the book Chandler compares the European business environment with that of the United States. He evaluated the significance of business structure to performance and success in the marketplace. Chandler was dubbed the "dean of American business history" by Financial World in 1991.

Alfred D. Chandler, Jr. retired from the Harvard Business School on June 30, 1989.

There is a scarcity of material on Chandler. John Higham's favorable comment is from the epilogue of his 1983 edition of History, but it is only a brief consideration. Equally brief are the references to Chandler in Georg G. Iggers and Harold T. Parker, International Handbook of Historical Studies (1979).

Chandler, Alfred D. Jr., The Essential Alfred Chandler: Essays Toward a Historical Theory of Big Business, Harvard Business School Press, 1988.

Chandler, Alfred D. Jr., Scale and Scope: The Dynamics of Industrial Capitalism, Belknap Press, 1990.

Forbes, November 13, 1989.

The New Republic, December 10, 1990.


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