April 05, 2012, 3:36 PM — Steve Jobs biographer, Walter Isaacson delivered a lecture at the Royal Institution in London on Wednesday evening. He spoke about his reasons for agreeing to write the biography, his feelings about Jobs and Jobs personalty traits, as well as his thoughts about the new management at Apple, and Jobs anger at Google.
The venue was pertinent. The lecture theatre had once been the dissecting theatre of the Royal Institution, so symbolic because Isaacson was there to "dissect a life" but also because so many of the characters Isaacson had written about had passed through the very room. Having written biographies of both Franklin and Einstein, the significance of the room did not escape Isaacson's notice. (Continues below...)
The room was full of people who wanted to hear about Isaacson's time with Apple's late-CEO Steve Jobs, and even in relation to Jobs the room was significant, with Jobs having spoken often about being at the intersection of science and the liberal arts. As Isaacson put it: "The history of the creativity and beauty of science comes from Joseph Banks, Joseph Priestly and everyone else who stood here in this room."
Isaacson began his lecture talking about how Jobs first approached him about writing the biography. There were a number of reasons why he didn't initially jump at the chance to write it, as anyone who has read the book will know. First, the reaction of Henry Kissinger to his biography had "such an unnerving effect on me that I decided I was going to do historical people", explained Isaacson. The other reason, which drew laughter from the audience, was: "Ok Steve. Ben Franklin, Albert Einstein..." As he outlines in the book, and as he described on stage, he was surprised that Jobs felt he should sit alongside these characters, and he also thought perhaps in thirty years time it might be more appropriate. But what he later learned was that Jobs called him the day after he had been diagnosed with cancer. "Then I realised, here was a guy, this is a person of the great innovation story writ large. The person who starts a company in his parents garage and turns it into the most valuable company on Earth.
"Secondly, he is somebody who is a great restoration tale writ large. Kicked out of his own company in 1985, and yet 12 years later they have to call him back because the company is near bankruptcy, and he rescues the company and makes it into the most valuable company on Earth," Isaacson said.