About John F. Kieran
John Francis Kieran (August 2, 1892 – December 9, 1981) was an American author, journalist, amateur naturalist and radio and television personality.
A native of The Bronx, Kieran earned a Bachelor of Science degree (cum laude) from Fordham University. He began his newspaper career in 1915 as a sportswriter for The New York Times. 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.
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 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. (born 1921) 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. He died in Rockport, Massachusetts, at the age of 89 and is buried at Beech Grove Cemetery in Rockport.
The Story of the Olympic Games
The American Sporting Scene
Footnotes on Nature
John James Audubon, co-authored with his wife Margaret Kieran
An Introduction to Nature (1946), Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc. (Revised editions: 1948, 1950, 1952, 1954, 1955, 1966)
A Natural History of New York City (1959)
Not Under Oath (1964), Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., his autobiography
Poems I Remember: An Anthology of My Favorite Poems (1942), Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Doran & Co.
In 1987, six years after his death, the New York City Parks Department inaugurated The John Kieran Nature Trail, which runs along some of the most scenic areas of the Bronx's Van Cortlandt Park. The trail is part of the former Putnam Division of the New York Central Railroad.