Theodor Seuss Geisel (/ˈɡaɪzəl/; March 2, 1904 – September 24, 1991) was an American writer, poet, and cartoonist most widely known for children’s picture bookswritten and illustrated as Dr. Seuss. He had used the pen name Dr. Theophrastus Seuss in college and later used Theo LeSieg, and once Rosetta Stone, as well as Dr. Seuss.
Geisel published 46 children’s books, often characterized by imaginative characters, rhyme, and frequent use of anapestic meter. His most celebrated books include the bestselling Green Eggs and Ham, The Cat in the Hat, The Lorax, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, Horton Hatches the Egg, Horton Hears a Who!, andHow the Grinch Stole Christmas!. Numerous adaptations of his work have been created, including 11 television specials, four feature films, a Broadway musical and four television series. He won the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award in 1958 for Horton Hatches the Egg and again in 1961 for And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street. Geisel also worked as an illustrator for advertising campaigns, most notably for Flit and Standard Oil, and as a political cartoonist for PM, a New York City newspaper. During World War II, he worked in an animation department of the United States Army, where he wrote Design for Death, a film that later won the 1947Academy Award for Documentary Feature.
He was a perfectionist in his work and he would sometimes spend up to a year on a book. It was not uncommon for him to throw out 95% of his material until he settled on a theme for his book. For a writer he was unusual in that he preferred to only be paid after he finished his work rather than in advance.
Geisel’s birthday, March 2, has been adopted as the annual date for National Read Across America Day, an initiative on reading created by the National Education Association.
Geisel died of throat cancer on September 24, 1991, at his home in La Jolla at the age of 87. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered. On December 1, 1995, four years after his death, University of California, San Diego‘s University Library Building was renamed Geisel Library in honor of Geisel and Audrey for the generous contributions they made to the library and their devotion to improving literacy.
While Geisel was living in La Jolla, the United States Postal Service and others frequently confused him with another La Jolla resident, Dr. Hans Suess. Their names have been linked together posthumously: the personal papers of Hans Suess are housed in the Geisel Library.
In 2002, the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden opened in his birthplace of Springfield, Massachusetts; it features sculptures of Geisel and of many of his characters. On May 28, 2008, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and First Lady Maria Shriver announced that Geisel would be inducted into the California Hall of Fame, located at The California Museum for History, Women and the Arts. The induction ceremony took place December 15 and his widow Audrey accepted the honor in his place. On March 2, 2009, the web search engine Google temporarily changed its logo to commemorate Geisel’s birthday (a practice it often follows for various holidays and events).
In 2004, U.S. children’s librarians established the annual Theodor Seuss Geisel Award to recognize “the most distinguished American book for beginning readers published in English in the United States during the preceding year”. It should “demonstrate creativity and imagination to engage children in reading” during years pre-K to grade two.
At his alma mater, Dartmouth, where over 90% of incoming first-year students participate in pre-registration Dartmouth Outing Club trips into the New Hampshire wilderness, it is traditional for students returning from the trips to overnight at Dartmouth’s Moosilauke Ravine Lodge, where they are served green eggs and ham for breakfast in honor of Dr. Seuss. On April 4, 2012, the Dartmouth Medical School renamed itself the Audrey and Theodor Geisel School of Medicine in honor of their many years of generosity to the college.
Dr. Seuss’s honors include two Academy awards, two Emmy awards, a Peabody award, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal, and the Pulitzer Prize.