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The captivating inside story of the man who helmed National Geographic for six decades is a front-row seat to audacious feats of exploration, from the successful hunt for the Titanic to Jane Goodall's field studies. Offering a rare portrait of one of the world's most iconic media empires, this revealing autobiography makes an impassioned argument to know—and care for—our planet.
Though his career path had been paved by four generations of his family before him, Gilbert M. Grosvenor left his own mark on the National Geographic Society, founded in 1888 and recognized the world over by its ubiquitous yellow border. In an unflinchingly honest memoir as big as the world and all that is in it, Grosvenor shows us what it was like to "grow up Geographic" in a family home where explorers like Robert Peary, Louis Leakey, and Jane Goodall regularly crossed the threshold. As staff photographer, editor in chief and then president of the organization, Grosvenor oversaw the diversification into television, film, books, as well as its flagship magazine, which under his tenure reached a peak circulation of nearly 11 million. He also narrates the shift from a nonprofit, family-focused enterprise to the more corporate, bottom-line focused world of publishing today.
For Grosvenor, running National Geographic wasn’t just a job. It was a legacy, motivated by a passion not just to leave the world a better place, but to motivate others to do so, too. Filled with world travel, charismatic explorers, and the complexities of running a publishing empire, A MAN OF THE WORLD is the story of one man, a singular family business, and the changing face of American media.
About the Author
Gilbert Melville Grosvenor is the former president and chairman of the National Geographic Society, after having served as the editor of National Geographic magazine from 1970 to 1980. The great-grandson of Alexander Graham Bell and the third Grosvenor to serve as editor-in-chief of the magazine, Grosvenor has received 14 honorary doctorates and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005 for his leadership in geography education.
Grosvenor grew up Geographic. This isn’t an exaggeration. His family home was regularly visited by, among other adventurers, Arctic explorer Robert Peary. Grosvenor went on to serve as Nat Geo’s staff photographer, editor in chief and president, making himself a crucial figure for the publication as he observed feats such as the successful search for the Titanic and while making time to hang with houseguests such as legendary chimp-whisperer Jane Goodall. Sept. 13.—Men's Journal
Grosvenor, former president of the National Geographic Society, presents an enthralling look at his consequential time “searching out and celebrating the planet.” The son of Melville Bell Grosvenor, editor-in-chief of National Geographic Magazine, Grosvenor had his career laid out for him, though it didn’t make itself evident immediately. While an undergraduate at Yale in the early 1950s, where he majored in psychology, Gilbert volunteered to help clean up the destruction left by devastating flooding in the Netherlands. After documenting the tragedy and the region’s recovery in an article published in National Geographic, Grosvenor writes, “I was hooked, a convert to journalism.” By 1954, Grosvenor was working for the magazine’s illustrations division. As he details his ascent through the magazine—from becoming editor in 1970 to later heading the society as its president in 1980—Gilbert passionately recounts his effort to spearhead the society’s Geography Education Outreach program, an endeavor that put millions of dollars behind his belief that education about the world’s landscapes was key to tackling climate change. Just as captivating as Grosvenor’s accomplishments are humorous moments that cast the phenom in an endearing light, including when he was nearly trampled by a horse-drawn carriage after falling off a truck in Pakistan. The magazine’s many devotees will be riveted.—Publishers Weekly
With the help of Mark Collins Jenkins, former chief historian of the National Geographic Society’s archives, Grosvenor, now 91, relates his long association with that society’s celebrated magazine. National Geographic'sfirst full-time editor was Grosvenor’s grandfather (1899–1954), followed by Grosvenor’s father (1957–67), followed by Grosvenor himself (1970–80), who would leave that position to become president of the society (1980–96). Steeped in the spirit of exploration, dating back to the author’s adventures as a boy on Cape Breton Island and along the inlets of Chesapeake Bay, Grosvenor’s anecdotal account belies its importance as a history of the society and its magazine, as it details landmarks in the magazine’s history, from its critical financial support of North Pole explorer Robert Peary, the Leakeys, Jacques-Yves Cousteau, and Jane Goodall, among others, to its shift to environmental issues, its support of geography education, and its expansion into other media. Great stories abound, such as Richard Leakey’s utter disbelief as he stares at the pet-food aisle of an American supermarket. “How else do you feed your dog,” Grosvenor asks him. “I just open the back door,” Leakey replies. “Ben finds his own food. In the bush.”—Alan Moores, Booklist