Education: Biographer of Mankind

Will Durant: 1885-1981

It was all Spinoza's fault. In 1908 William James Durant, the Massachusetts-born son of unschooled French-Canadian immigrants, was well on his way to fulfilling his mother's dream that he become a priest. Then he came upon a copy of Spinoza's Ethics in a seminary library. So convincing did he find the 17th century Dutch pantheist that he quickly abandoned the church, deciding instead, as he put it, to pursue a "more intellectually honest life." What he found was another calling. For 48 years, eleven volumes and nearly 10,000 pages, Will Durant labored with monastic devotion on a "biography of...

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