Richard R. John is a historian who specializes in the history of business, technology, communications, and American political development. He teaches and advises graduate students in Columbia’s Ph.D. program in communications, and is member of the core faculty of the Columbia history department, where he teaches courses on the history of capitalism and the history of communications. His publications include many essays, eight edited books, and two monographs: "Spreading the News: The American Postal System from Franklin to Morse" (1995) and "Network Nation: Inventing American Telecommunications" (2010).
John has been a fellow at the Newberry Library in Chicago and the Smithsonian Institution's Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D. C., and has served as a visiting professor at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris. Among the institutions that have sponsored his research are the College of William and Mary, the American Antiquarian Society, and the National Endowment of the Humanities, which awarded him a faculty fellowship in 2008. Spreading the News received several national awards, including the Allan Nevins Prize from the Society of American Historians and the Herman E. Krooss Prize from the Business History Conference. Network Nation won the first Ralph Gomory Book Prize from the Business History Conference and was the 2010 Best Book in Journalism and Mass Communication History, an award bestowed by the History Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. In 2019, he was awarded a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship for his research on the history of American anti-monopoly thought. Partial funding for Professor Richard R. John's research project on American anti-monopoly thought is provided by the Economic Security Project. John is a former president of the Business History Conference, an international professional society dedicated to the study of institutional history.
Between 1977 and 1989, John earned a B.A. in social studies (magna cum laude), a M.A. in history and a Ph.D. in the history of American civilization, all from Harvard University.