Carl Van Doren
Van Doren as the commencement speaker for the University of Kentucky in 1929
Carl Clinton Van Doren

(1885-09-10)September 10, 1885
DiedJuly 18, 1950(1950-07-18) (aged 64)
Alma materUniversity of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign (B.A.), Columbia University (Ph. D)
Spouse(s)Irita Bradford (1912–1935), Jean Wright Gorman (1939–1945)

Carl Clinton Van Doren (September 10, 1885 – July 18, 1950) was an American critic and biographer. He was the brother of critic and teacher Mark Van Doren and the uncle of Charles Van Doren.

He won the 1939 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography for Benjamin Franklin.

Life and career

Van Doren was born on September 10, 1885 in Hope, Vermilion County, Illinois, the son of Eudora Ann (Butz) and Charles Lucius Van Doren, a country doctor. He was raised on the family farm. He earned a bachelor of arts from the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign in 1907 and a doctorate from Columbia University in 1911 and continued to teach there until 1930. He was a world federalist and once said, "It is obvious that no difficulty in the way of world government can match the danger of a world without it".[1] In 1939, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography for Benjamin Franklin.[2]

Van Doren's study The American Novel, published in 1921, is generally credited with helping to re-establish Herman Melville's critical status as first-rate literary master.[3] He was book section editor for The Nation from 1920 to 1922.[4]

From 1912 to 1935, Van Doren was married to Irita Bradford, editor of the New York Herald Tribune book review. Van Doren had three daughters with Iritia; Ann born in 1915, Margaret born in 1917, and Barbara (Bobby) born in 1920.[5] He married Jean Wright Gorman in 1939, but divorced in 1945.

He worked closely with Howard Henry Peckham on Van Doren's Secret History of the American Revolution (1941), editing documents from the Clinton Papers that revealed Benedict Arnold's treason.[6]

Van Doren died in Torrington, Connecticut on July 18, 1950.[7]


A residence hall at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign is named after Carl Clinton Van Doren.[8]