Deceased , Historic




Samuel Eliot Morison was a distinguished Harvard professor and prolific two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author. He has been cited as the foremost authority on US Naval history and a major contributor to American history.

Honors and Accomplishments:

Please note: Mr. Morison’s numerous honorary degrees, awards, medals, and publications are listed in more detail in the text of this profile (see pdf). Below is a quick summary:

  • President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Morison to write the history of U.S. naval operations in World War II (14 volumes)
  • Won the Pulitzer Prize in 1942 for his book Admiral of the Ocean Sea: The Life of Christopher Columbus, which he researched not only in the archives, but by sailing the ketch Mary Otis on the trans-Atlantic track that Columbus used.
  • 1939-1940, he organized and commanded the Harvard Columbus Expedition which retraced the voyages of Columbus in sailing ships, barkentine Capitana and ketch Mary Otis.
  • With Maurico Obregon of Bogota, he surveyed ads and photographed the shores of the Caribbean by air and published an illustrated book The Caribbean as Columbus Saw It (1964).
  • 1963, the International Balzan Foundation announced that Admiral Morison was winner of its cultural prize ($51,750) for his 15-volume history and other maritime research. (Volumes listed below)
  • He was editor of The American Neptune and The New England Quarterly and brought out a new edition of William Bradford’s History of Plymouth Plantation (1952).
  • He was awarded the Emerson-Thoreau Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Gold Medal for history and biography of the National Institute of Arts and Letters
  • Morison was author of a number of other works and textbooks, including: Life of Harrison Gray Otis (1913); Maritime History of Massachusetts (1921); Oxford History of the United States (1927); Builders of the Bay Colony (1930); Tercentennial History of Harvard University (awarded Jusserand Medal and Loubat prize, 1930-36); Growth of the American Republic (with Henry Steele Commager) (1937- in its 5th edition, 1962); Portuguese Voyages to America (1940); Admiral of the Ocean Sea (1942) (awarded Pulitzer Prize for biography); Oxford History of the American People (1965); By Land and By Sea (1953); Spring Tides (1965); and Old Bruin, A biography of Commodore Matthew C. Perry (1967).
  • In 1960 he was awarded his second Pulitzer Prize for his biography of John Paul Jones (1959).
  • He wrote many other books that touch on maritime history and has been considered one of America’s great historians.
  • Was on active duty for both World War I and World War II
  • Awarded The Legion of Merit as well as many other medals (for a full list, see pdf, below)


Morison’s biography excerpted from the Naval History & Heritage Command website (pdf): Morison, Samuel biography


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