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Jon Gertner

Journalist and author of The Idea Factory

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Jon Gertner on the History of Innovation
  • About Jon Gertner

    Jon Gertner is a contributing writer at The New York Times Magazine, where he writes features on science, innovation and technology. His 2012 book The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation, chronicles the exploits of a generation of scientists at the world’s greatest laboratory, was a national bestseller, and went on to make several critics’ “best of” lists for the year. It also led Gertner to lecture to companies and nonprofits around the country about the history of Bell Labs and the principles of innovation.

    Gertner’s newest book, The Ice at the End of the World (June 2019), chronicles 150 years of exploration and investigation on the Greenland ice sheet. The book was conceived as a story about ice and the process of scientific discovery; it aims to explain how the work in Greenland, aided by an evolving array of technological tools, has led us to a deepening understanding of our current climate crisis. The story of Greenland’s ice sheet—the world’s largest laboratory—includes hair-raising tales of adventure and frostbite; a cast of characters who suffered misery on an almost unimaginable level; and a number of scientists who perceived in the ice a method to decipher clues to the ancient and future earth. Not only an epic of nature, the book is a human and scientific saga as well.

    In addition to lecturing on Bell Labs, Gertner often leads audiences through the history and science of climate change, arguing that the Arctic is the most important climate change story of our current era. Building on his book on Greenland and recent New York Times Magazine stories, he explains in captivating detail how science and technology have helped us understand climate change, and how they might help us mitigate its future effects.  As temperatures rise around the world, the profound changes in Greenland and the Arctic may soon translate into threatened ecosystems and natural calamities—but also in increased geopolitical tensions and dramatic competition for economic development.

    Prior to his time at The New York Times Magazine, Gertner served as an editor for Fast CompanyMoney and The American Lawyer. His writing has also appeared in The New York Times Book Review, Wired, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. A graduate of Cornell University, Gertner lives in New Jersey with his wife and their two children.

  • Speaking Topics

    The Ice at the End of the World

    The Arctic is the most important climate change story of our current era. Building on his book on Greenland and recent New York Times Magazine stories, Gertner explains in captivating detail how science and technology have helped us understand climate change, and how they might help us mitigate its future effects. As temperatures rise around the world, the profound changes in Greenland and the Arctic may soon translate into threatened ecosystems and natural calamities—but also in increased geopolitical tensions and dramatic competition for economic development.

    The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation

    Bell Labs was the greatest laboratory of the 20th Century—an engine of innovation that led to the creation of the transistor, the laser, digital communications, and a host of other world-changing inventions. But what made this place so extraordinary? Tracing the history of this unique institution, Gertner unveils the many lessons that today’s innovators can learn about Bell Labs' methods, philosophy, and success.

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  • Praise for Jon Gertner

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    Jon, we’re very grateful for your participation in the SINAInnovations event. Your comments offered a great perspective that gives us much to think about. We have all been inspired by The Idea Factory, which is a great motivator for us to think differently in charting our future.  You have really made an impact on us here at Sinai.

    Scott L. Friedman, MD, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

    Praise for The Ice at the End of the World

    The Ice at the End of the Worldis a masterpiece of reportage and storytelling. What Gertner has found on Greenland’s remote glaciers is a harrowing tale of extremity and survival, as well as a harbinger of our own precarious future here on earth. Equal parts science, adventure, and history, this important book is a revelation, one that lingered for me long after turning the last page.

    Michael Paterniti, bestselling author of The Telling Room

    Penetrating and engrossing . . . A captivating, essential book to add to the necessarily burgeoning literature on global warming.

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

    Praise for The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation

    One of the best innovation-focused books I’ve read: It’s a wide-ranging, detailed, and deeply fascinating look at the New Jersey lab which has been churning out useful discoveries since the early 1900s.

    The Boston Globe

    Filled with colorful characters and inspiring lessons . . . The Idea Factory explores one of the most critical issues of our time: What causes innovation?

    Walter Isaacson, The New York Times Book Review

    “iveting…Mr. Gertner’s portraits of Kelly and the cadre of talented scientists who worked at Bell Labs are animated by a journalistic ability to make their discoveries and inventions utterly comprehensible—indeed, thrilling—to the lay reader. And they showcase, too, his novelistic sense of character and intuitive understanding of the odd ways in which clashing or compatible personalities can combine to foster intensely creative collaborations.

    Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

    Compelling . . . Gertner’s book offers fascinating evidence for those seeking to understand how a society should best invest its research resources.

    The Wall Street Journal
  • Books by Jon Gertner

  • Media About Jon Gertner

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  • 212 572-2013
  • Jon Gertner travels from Maplewood, New Jersey

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