John Palfrey is the Head of School at Phillips Academy, Andover and Incoming President of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. He serves as Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Knight Foundation. He also serves as a Board member of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, the Boston Athenaeum, and MIT Press.
His research and teaching focus on new media and learning. He has written extensively on Internet law, intellectual property, and the potential of new technologies to strengthen democracies locally and around the world. He is the author or co-author of several books, including Safe Spaces, Brave Spaces: Diversity and Free Expression in Education; Born Digital: How Children Grow Up in a Digital Age (with Urs Gasser); BiblioTech: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google; Interop: The Promise and Perils of Highly Interconnected Systems (with Urs Gasser); Intellectual Property Strategy; and Access Denied: The Practice and Politics of Global Internet Filtering.
He served previously as the Henry N. Ess III Professor of Law and Vice Dean for Library and Information Resources at Harvard Law School. He is a director of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, where he served as executive director from 2002–2008. He was a member of the law firm Ropes & Gray, where he worked on intellectual property, Internet law, and private equity transactions. He also served as a Special Assistant at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency during the Clinton administration. He previously served as the founding President of the Board of Directors of the Digital Public Library of America. He also served as a venture executive at Highland Capital Partners and on the Board of Directors of the Mass2020 Foundation, the Ames Foundation, and Open Knowledge Commons, among others. He was a Visiting Professor of Information Law and Policy at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland for the 2007–2008 academic year.
He graduated from Harvard College, the University of Cambridge, and Harvard Law School. He was a Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholar to the University of Cambridge. His honors include the U.S. EPA Gold Medal (highest national award).