Thomas Loren Friedman was born on July 20, 1953, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the son of Harold Friedman (vice president of a ball bearing company) and Margaret Friedman. He has two older sisters. He graduated from Minneapolis suburb St. Louis Park High School in 1971, then attended the University of Minnesota and Brandeis University, graduating in 1975 with a degree in Mediterranean studies. As an undergraduate he spent semesters abroad at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the American University in Cairo. He also attended St. Anthony's College, Oxford, on a Marshall Scholarship and received an M.Phil. degree in modern Middle East studies. In 1978 he joined the London Bureau of United Press International as a reporter. In England he met Ann Bucksbaum, an American studying at the London School of Economics, whom he married in 1978. He and Ann lived in Beirut from 1979 to 1981 while he covered the civil war as a foreign correspondent.
In 1981 Friedman joined the New York Times and became the Beirut bureau chief during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. He covered that event and the aftermath for two years, being awarded the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for his journalism. He served as Jerusalem Bureau Chief from 1984 to 1988. His two daughters were born in Jerusalem. In 1988 he won a second Pulitzer Prize for his reporting and received a Guggenheim Fellowship enabling him to write a book, From Beirut to Jerusalem, 1989, still considered a classic. It won the National Book Award.
In 1989 he went to Washington, D.C., as the Times’chief diplomatic correspondent where he covered domestic politics and international economics. As Foreign Affairs columnist he gathered material for his book The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization (1999). Longitudes and Attitudes: Exploring the World After September 11 (2002), contained the articles he had written during that time that earned him his third Pulitzer Prize for reporting.
The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century first came out in 2005. In 2008, his fifth best-seller, Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution and How it Can Renew America, was a favorite of President Obama's. In 2011 he published That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back with Michael Mandelbaum. In 2009 Friedman was given a Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Press Club. Besides his many speaking appearances, he has made documentaries for the New York Times on the Discovery Channel.