Born in Philadelphia, Bruce Kuklick attended its public schools and received a BA in philosophy and a PhD in American Civilization from the University of Pennsylvania. He also studied at Oxford University and at the University of London. He taught at Yale from 1968 to 1972 and then at the University of Pennsylvania as Nichols Professor of American History from 1996 to 2009, where he is now Emeritus. He instructed at the Open University in London in 1968; in 1992 he was Walt Whitman Professor of American Studies in The Netherlands; in 1996, 2010, 2011, and 2014 Guest Professor in Leuven, Belgium; in 2005 an Exchange Professor at University College London; in 2008 the Fulbright Distinguished Research Chair at the Roosevelt Studies Center in The Netherlands, where he is an Honorary Roosevelt Fellow; and in 2016 a Fulbright Specialist at Radboud University, and in 2017 Visiting Professor at the Roosevelt Institute of American Studies.
Lisa Birnbach's College Book has recognized him as the best teacher at Penn, and he has received all the University’s teaching awards: History Department’s Richard Dunn Prize; the Lindback and Abrams Prizes; and the Senior Class Award. The Teaching Company has taped his lectures in its Superstar Teachers series. He has taught courses in American political, diplomatic, and intellectual history; and in the philosophy of history, and has lectured extensively to both academic and general audiences.
The recipient of grants from the American Council of Learned Societies, the Rockefeller and Guggenheim Foundations, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, Kuklick has also been a member of the Stanford University Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. Elected to the American Philosophical Society in 2004, he has consulted for universities, philanthropic institutions, and governmental agencies; and he belongs to many scholarly professional associations. He has chaired various committees awarding book prizes and funding, including the Benjamin Franklin Grants Committee of the American Philosophical Society.
Kuklick is the author of a three-volume history of American thought Churchmen and Philosophers: Jonathan Edwards to John Dewey (1985); The Rise of American Philosophy: Cambridge Massachusetts, 1860-1930 (1976); and Philosophy in America, 1720–2000 (2001). The second of these three won the Phi Beta Kappa book award in the humanities, while a symposium sponsored by the American Academy of Religion was held on Churchmen and Philosophers. The Rise of American Philosophy and Black Philosopher, White Academy (2008) have been the subjects of Author Meets Critics panels of the American Philosophical Association. To Every Thing a Season: Shibe Park and Urban Philadelphia (1991) has won the Casey Award and the SABR-Macmillan Baseball Prize. His writing has been translated into Dutch, Japanese Korean, Polish, and Spanish.
He has received two Mellon Foundation grants for a book, written with Emmanuel Gerard, Death in the Congo: Murderingng Patrice Lumumba (Harvard University Press, 2015). The Fighting Sullivans, about the deaths of the five Sullivan brothers in World War Two, was published by the University of Kansas Press in 2016.
A second edition of his 2009 Academic Choice Book, A Political History of the United States: One Nation Under God, was published in the fall of 2019.
Kuklick is married and the father of four children. He lives in Philadelphia.