John Palfrey

John Palfrey

Scholar Title: Visiting Professor of Law

Department: Harvard Law School


1563 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138

John Palfrey will be Visiting Professor of Law at Harvard Law School during the winter of 2021. He became the president of the MacArthur Foundation in the fall of 2019. Mr. Palfrey is a well-respected educator, author, legal scholar, and innovator with expertise in how new media is changing learning, education, and other institutions.

From 2012 to 2019, Mr. Palfrey served as Head of School at Phillips Academy. Prior to this appointment, Mr. Palfrey served as the Henry N. Ess III Professor of Law and vice dean for Library and Information Resources at Harvard Law School. He was also executive director of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society from 2002 to 2008. He is founding board chair of the Digital Public Library of America, and he has served as board chairman at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation since 2014.

Mr. Palfrey has published extensively on how young people learn in a digital era, as well as the effects of new technologies on society at large. He is the author or coauthor of several books, including The Connected Parent: An Expert Guide to Parenting in a Digital World (with Urs Gasser, Basic Books 2020); Safe Spaces, Brave Spaces: Diversity and Free Expression in Education (MIT Press 2017); a revised and expanded version of his book Born Digital: How Children Grow Up in a Digital Age, which he co-authored with Urs Gasser, was issued in 2016.

Mr. Palfrey has also served as a Special Assistant at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency during the Clinton administration. He previously served on the Board of Directors of the Mass2020 Foundation, the Ames Foundation, Data + Society Research Institute, School Year Abroad, Open Knowledge Commons, and LRNG, among others.


A.B. Harvard College, 1994

M.Phil. University of Cambridge, 1997

J.D. Harvard Law School, 2001