Kissinger is an American academic and politician who played a dominant role in US foreign policy in the late 1960s and 1970s and won the Nobel Peace Prize for his part in negotiating an end to US involvement in Vietnam.
Heinz Alfred Kissinger was born on 27 May 1923 in Fuerth, Germany into a Jewish family who emigrated to the US in 1938 to escape Nazism. Kissinger became a US citizen in 1943. After wartime service in the army Kissinger went to Harvard University. He stayed on to teach at Harvard and began to serve as an occasional foreign policy adviser to the US government.
In 1969, US President Richard Nixon appointed Kissinger as national security advisor. His guiding philosophy was that foreign policy should serve the national interest - a pragmatic outlook dubbed 'realpolitik'. Kissinger arranged Nixon's two famous summit visits, to China and the Soviet Union, in 1972. These visits introduced the policy of detente by which the US sought to defuse tensions with the communist powers.
In 1973, Kissinger became secretary of state, thus becoming the first person born outside the US to hold this position. He continued to serve as secretary of state when Gerald Ford replaced Nixon as president. Kissinger received the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize, along with Le Duc Tho of North Vietnam, for negotiating an end to the United States' role in the Vietnam War. In 1974, he was credited with the 'shuttle diplomacy' that eased tensions in the Middle East following the Yom Kippur War of 1973 between Israel and Egypt, and that led to the 1975 Sinai Accord, in which both sides agreed to renounce war as a means of settling their differences. In 1977, he left office and went to work at Georgetown University. He returned to government service in 1985, on his selection to President Ronald Reagan's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.
In 2002, President George W Bush appointed Kissinger to chair the independent inquiry into the intelligence failures that contributed to the terrorist attacks on the US in September 2001. He stepped down from the post after questions were raised about a possible conflict of interest between the nature of the inquiry and his personal stake in his political consulting firm. Throughout his career, he has continued to write and lecture on foreign affairs and despite not serving at the highest levels of government for 25 years, still provokes controversy.