National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Time magazine
Born, Furth, Bavaria, Germany
Henry Kissinger is one of the most important and controversial figures in American government and diplomacy of the late twentieth century. His name is synonymous with realpolitik—unsentimental realism—in foreign policy, a viewpoint he has held since he wrote his PhD dissertation at Harvard. As a foreign policy intellectual, Kissinger obtained national recognition in the 1950s for his study, Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy (1957). Kissinger mixed academia with politics, cultivating connections with Republican leaders; in 1968 President Richard Nixon named him national security advisor. Under Nixon’s guidance, Kissinger secretly negotiated a rapprochement with China that permitted a normalization of relations at a 1972 summit conference, and he also followed a policy of détente, or engagement, with the USSR. He oversaw the controversial end of the Vietnam War, for which he was subsequently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973.