John Kieran

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John Kieran
John Kieran in 1947
John Francis Kieran

August 2, 1892
DiedDecember 10, 1981 (1981-12-11) (aged 89)
Alma materFordham University
Spouse(s)Alma Boldtman (1893-1944) Margaret Ford (1947 - ?)
Parent(s)Dr. and Mrs. James M. Kieran

John Francis Kieran (August 2, 1892 – December 10, 1981) was an American author, journalist, amateur naturalist and radio and television personality.


Early years

A native of The Bronx, Kieran was the son of Dr. James M. Kieran and his wife, Katherine Donahue Kieran. Both of his parents were teachers, and his father was at one time president of Hunter College. He had three sisters and three brothers. [1]

Kieran earned a Bachelor of Science degree ( cum laude ) from Fordham University. After graduating, he became a poultry farmer and taught school. [2]


Kieran began his newspaper career in 1915 as a sportswriter for The New York Times . [2] He continued on the sports beat during his entire career, working for a number of New York City newspapers and becoming one of the country's best known sports columnists. During his 1927–1943 tenure as The Times' senior sports columnist, he was profiled in the January 9, 1939 issue of Time magazine, which described him as "short, wiry, grey, bristly and brilliant".

Although Kieran is widely credited with first applying the term "grand slam" to tennis, to describe the winning of all four major tennis tournaments in a calendar year, sports columnist Alan Gould had used the term in that connection almost two months before Kieran. [3]

A noted "intellectual", he gained extensive personal popularity with his 10-year stint as a panelist on NBC's most widely heard radio quiz program Information, Please! (May 17, 1938 – June 25, 1948). His seemingly encyclopedic erudition and quick wit, combined with an aura of gentle modesty, endeared him to the listening audience and assured his place on the show. Along with fellow "intellectuals" Franklin P. Adams and host Clifton Fadiman, Kieran entertained and educated radio audiences through the Great Depression, World War II and the Cold War.

Within eight months of Information, Please! leaving the air, Kieran entered the new medium of television with TV's first widely syndicated show John Kieran's Kaleidoscope . A 15-minute program produced from February 1949 to April 1952, John Kieran's Kaleidoscope presented its writer and host in his well-acquainted role as the learned and witty guide to the complexities of human knowledge. The 104 episodes touched on any and every subject [4] from the mating habits of insects to the properties of magnetic attraction to the theories surrounding the creation of the solar system.

Kieran became a familiar face on 1950s television, guesting on numerous panel and quiz shows, including CBS' 13-week revival of Information, Please! as a 1952 summer replacement show, the only time it would be seen on TV.

Kieran's son, John Kieran, Jr. (1921-2000) also appeared on 1950s TV, including a stint as a regular panelist in 1955 on another long-running quiz show, Down You Go .

A dedicated bird watcher and observer of the natural world, endowed with a breezy, colloquial writing style, Kieran enjoyed roaming Riverdale, his home area of the northwest Bronx, recording for posterity the changing scene at a time when the post-World War II housing boom was encroaching on, and eventually eliminating, formerly natural areas. His 1959 book A Natural History of New York City has continued to be read for its observations on local geography as well as birds, reptiles, fish "in troubled waters" and mammals within the city limits.

In 1964, at the age of 73, Kieran published his autobiography, Not Under Oath.

Personal life

Kieran married Margaret Ford, a feature writer, September 15, 1947, in Brookline, Massachusetts. She was his second wife, his first wife having died five years earlier. [5]


Kieran died on December 10, 1981 in Rockport, Massachusetts, at the age of 89 and is buried at Beech Grove Cemetery in Rockport. [6]


Kieran was inducted in the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame in 1971.



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  1. "John Kieran to Write What He Thinks Interesting for R-A". The Record-Argus. Pennsylvania, Greenville. January 4, 1943. p. 10. Retrieved June 26, 2016 via Open Access logo PLoS transparent.svg
  2. 1 2 McGill, Charles J. (November 29, 1964). "John Kieran's World: A Remarkable Place". The Bridgeport Post. Connecticut, Bridgeport. p. 54. Retrieved June 26, 2016 via Open Access logo PLoS transparent.svg
  3. Cf. "Sport Slants," Reading Eagle, July 18, 1933, with "Coming Up to the Net," NY Times, September 2, 1933.
  4. Erickson, Hal (1989). Syndicated Television: The First Forty Years, 1947-1987. McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN   0-7864-1198-8. P. 75.
  5. "John Kieran Marries Boston Feature Writer". The Corpus Christi Caller-Times. Texas, Corpus Christi. Associated Press. September 5, 1947. p. 1. Retrieved June 26, 2016 via Open Access logo PLoS transparent.svg