Edward Bernays


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Edward Louis Bernays (/bɜːrˈneɪz/ bur-NAYZ, German: [bɛʁˈnaɪs]; November 22, 1891 − March 9, 1995) was an American theorist, considered a pioneer in the field of public relations and propaganda, and referred to in his obituary as "the father of public relations." His best-known campaigns include a 1929 effort to promote female smoking by branding cigarettes as feminist 

"Torches of Freedom" and his work for the United Fruit Company in the 1950s connected with the CIA-orchestrated overthrow of the democratically elected Guatemalan government in 1954. He worked for dozens of major American corporations, including Procter & Gamble and General Electric, and for government agencies, politicians, and nonprofit organizations.

Of his many books, Crystallizing Public Opinion (1923) and Propaganda (1928) gained special attention as early efforts to define and theorize the field of public relations. Citing works of writers such as Gustave Le Bon, Wilfred Trotter, Walter Lippmann, and Sigmund Freud (his own double uncle), he described the masses as irrational and subject to herd instinct—and he outlined how skilled practitioners could use crowd psychology and psychoanalysis to control them in desired ways.

Bernays later synthesized many of these ideas in his postwar book, Public Relations (1945), which outlines the science of managing information released to the public by an organization in a manner most advantageous to the organization. He does this by first providing an overview of the history of public relations and then providing insight into its application.

Bernays was named one of the 100 most influential Americans of the twentieth century by Life. He was the subject of a full-length biography by Larry Tye entitled The Father of Spin (1999) and later an award-winning 2002 documentary for the BBC by Adam Curtis entitled The Century of the Self.

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